Heading into this weekend’s pivotal showdown, there is little debate that the Georgia-South Carolina rivalry is as monumental as it’s ever been.
For the first time in the 118-year history of the state border-clash, both teams will take the field ranked among the top half-dozen in the nation, with the Bulldogs coming in at No. 5 and the Gamecocks just behind at No. 6.
“Really, whoever wins that game has the best chance of having momentum in the (Southeastern Conference Eastern Division),” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “It’s huge. It seems like South Carolina and Georgia have gotten stronger.”
Offensive lineman Chris Burnette added: “You really want to take this win because you never know what’s going to happen in the rest of (the SEC). South Carolina has played at the top of the conference for the past couple of years and it shows how talented they are.”
Since the birth of the Georgia football program in 1892, the Bulldogs have had important rivalries with Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia Tech. But Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia seven years ago marked a turning of the page on the annual matchup, as it has arguably given Georgia more fits than any in recent years.
After all, the Gamecocks have defeated the Bulldogs in back-to-back seasons. A win on Saturday would mark three in a row, which is something Georgia coach Mark Richt is quite aware of.
“We don’t like to make history in a negative way and it would be the first time in the history of the school that’s happened,” he said. “We definitely don’t want to be on that end of a historical event.”
If recent play is any indication, the game will be close. Only once during Spurrier’s tenure has the game been decided by more than 10 points and that was an 18-0 Bulldogs shutout in 2006. Take away that game and the average margin of victory has been just less than five points.
Perhaps the wildest game between the two during that span came in Athens a year ago. The teams combined to score 87 points in a 45-42 shootout that yielded a South Carolina victory in the final moments.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said the crushing loss “gave us a little spark offensively to start that run last year.”
With that recent history, has this rivalry grown to a new level?
“It’s spread out a lot more than it’s used to, where it was mainly Florida,” Robinson said. “For me, [South Carolina] has always been the biggest rivalry.”