S.C. a must win? ‘Important,’ Richt says

While the latest Georgia football loss may not be quite put to bed for many Bulldogs fans, the bad mood could change in a hurry by the time they drive home Saturday night from Sanford Stadium.

Georgia could find itself with the inside track in the race for the Southeastern Conference Division title if it beats No. 12 South Carolina. Or its season could fall further off the tracks with an 0-2 start.

Georgia coach Mark Richt, in his 11th season, did not want to entertain the question Tuesday at his weekly news conference about the perception that Saturday’s game could be pivotal for him or his program.

“I view it as a very important game,” Richt said smiling.

Boise State’s 35-21 victory in the season opener Saturday put Kellen Moore on one of Sports Illustrated’s covers this week and dropped Georgia out of the AP top 25 from No. 19.

The Georgia-South Carolina game Saturday will mark the first time the teams have played with the Gamecocks as a ranked team and the Bulldogs unranked.

“We can’t let Boise State pretty much help South Carolina beat us by keeping a loss on our mind,” defensive end Abry Jones said.

Tight end Aron White is among players that are backing off their activity on the social networking platform Twitter after the loss. He said he won’t tweet about football.

“Just trying to stay positive, man,” White said. “There’s a lot of negativity going on around here right now with the first game obviously opening up with a loss. I think if we had a better year last year and we’d have opened up with a loss, things would have been a little different. I don’t think as many people would have jumped to criticize and speak negatively.”

Steve Spurrier’s first season as coach at South Carolina was 2005 when Georgia won its second SEC title under Richt in its third appearance in four seasons.

The Bulldogs haven’t been back since, but finished ahead of Spurrier’s Gamecocks in the SEC East every year before last season when South Carolina won is first-ever SEC East title and Georgia went 6-7, its first losing season since 1996.

“Things change quickly sometimes,” Spurrier said Tuesday. “If you go in a slump and you’re at a school that’s used to winning, the fans get a little irritated. That’s just the way it is. I came to a program that the coach before me had a losing record. Our expectations weren’t quite like Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.”

Georgia and its fans were hoping that a win over Boise State game would reinvigorate the program.

Three days later, Richt was asked by a reporter from South Carolina if Saturday is a “must-win” for him?

“Didn’t I just say it’s a really important game?” Richt said.

“But do you think it’s a must-win?” the reporter said.

“I think it’s a really important game,” Richt said. “Do you want to ask me again? Because you can and I’ll give you the same answer. OK?”

Quarterback Aaron Murray said players are “not trying to worry about that. We just know it’s a big game for ourselves to get back rolling in the right direction, to get a win under our belts and get a big win against a great opponent. It’s a huge game. We definitely don’t want to start off 0-2 and you don’t want to start off 0-1 in SEC play.”

Georgia leads the all-time series 46-15-2, including winning seven of eight before a 17-6 loss in Columbia last year.

“If you look at it, it’s very lopsided as far as our history,” White said. “In the series, we’ve kind of played big brother, but the tables are kind of turned this year.”

Said tight end Orson Charles: “I really do think that when we come out with a win, everybody will have more smiles on their face and there will be a better atmosphere around here.”

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@JeffSchultzAJC @SethEmerson @BizWriterKristi Less than 3 weeks until basketball opener. Not that we are counting down.

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