For the 19th straight year, Georgia will open its Southeastern Conference schedule against South Carolina.
This rivalry long served as the bronze medal game in the East Division race, as the winner often settled in behind Florida and Tennessee, but that isn't the thought entering Saturday's showdown in Columbia. Not with the Volunteers trying to regain their footing with a third coach in three years and the Gators having to struggle to put away Miami of Ohio in Saturday's opener.
South Carolina looked impressive in its 41-13 shellacking of Southern Miss last Thursday night, as did Georgia in Saturday's 55-7 bludgeoning of Louisiana-Lafayette.
"I think time will tell how big of a game it is," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We know it's huge for us, and they know it's huge for them, but the bottom line is that if we play well throughout league play and they do, too, it could be the deciding factor between making it and not. I have a lot of respect for them, and watching them Thursday certainly didn't ease any feelings of knowing that we're going to play a very, very good team."
Saturday's game will be televised by ESPN2 with a noon kickoff.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier was involved in 12 Florida-Tennessee matchups during his stint with the Gators, including nine when both programs were in the top 10. Spurrier balked at first Sunday when asked to discuss the magnitude of this year's Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but then he
Odds and ends
South Carolina middle linebacker Shaq Wilson (hamstring) likely will miss a second straight game, but Spurrier said safety D.J. Swearinger will play after missing the second half last Thursday with a concussion. ... Gamecocks left tackle Jarriel King and cornerback Chris Culliver were held out of the opener and continue to be in limbo, much like Georgia receiver A.J. Green. ... When asked if anything surprised him Saturday, Spurrier said, "You mean other than Jacksonville State?"
said, "It will be loud. It's a big game, one of the biggest we've had in a while, so it should be an exciting day."
The only year in which the Georgia-South Carolina game wound up deciding the East race was 2005, when the Bulldogs toppled the Gamecocks 17-15 in Athens. Georgia finished 6-2 in the league, while South Carolina and Florida ended up 5-3.
Spurrier was able to watch the Bulldogs on television and was impressed by their 3-4 defense under new coordinator Todd Grantham. Georgia held ULL to five first downs and 14 rushing yards.
"It appears to be quite a bit different," Spurrier said. "Obviously their players have been well-trained through spring practice and through preseason practice. I certainly respect what he's done in one game. His team looked well-prepared and in position to play in just about every snap but one."
Spurrier did not remember having any background with Grantham, but Grantham was defensive line coach of the Houston Texans in 2002 when Spurrier's Washington Redskins defeated them 26-10.
"I remember meeting President Bush, the older President Bush," Spurrier said. "That's my memory of that game."