Undefeated Georgia, South Carolina to meet in rivalry’s first top-10 matchup

Nobody has come close this season to slowing down a Georgia offense that play-caller Mike Bobo has hitting on nearly all cylinders.


Marc Weiszer

South Carolina, with a defense that has given up a total of five touchdowns, will try to stand its ground Saturday at 7 p.m. in Williams-Brice Stadium in a game that could go a long way in deciding the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division race.

The showdown of unbeatens between the No. 5 Bulldogs and No. 6 Gamecocks will bring ESPN’s College GameDay to Columbia.

“We’ve been waiting for this one all season long,” former South Carolina quarterback Todd Ellis said as host on coach Steve Spurrier’s television show.

It’s the first top-10 matchup in the border rivalry and matches teams with 5-0 overall records, 3-0 in the SEC. The previously highest-ranking game between the teams was in 1980, when No. 4 Georgia beat No. 14 South Carolina 13-10 in Athens.

“It’s a big, big game right now when you start playing this deep into the conference season and you’ve got two undefeateds,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “It’s huge.”

That’s the same word South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier used to describe the game.

“We all know it,” he said. “Georgia is a very good team.”

Georgia has scored 40 or more points in five consecutive games this season. Oregon is the only other team in the nation that can say the same.

“They were a scoring machine (against Tennessee),” Spurrier said of Georgia’s 51-44 win Saturday.

The Bulldogs are eighth in the nation in scoring at 48.2 points per game. South Carolina is sixth in points allowed at 11.2.

Behind a line with three new starters and with two freshmen tailbacks — Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall — Georgia leads the SEC and ranks 11th nationally in total offense (536.0) and rushing (250.4) and is No. 2 nationally in pass efficiency.

“Mike has just blossomed into one heck of a coach,” Richt said of the offensive coordinator who took over play-calling from him in November of 2006. “I know anybody who calls plays catches grief. I was a play-caller. I caught my share of grief. …I’ve always known Mike as just a heck of a ball coach. He understands the game. As a coordinator, I knew the pass game pretty darn good and I understood the run game to a certain degree, but not to the degree that Mike understands it. He really understands how to run that ball and call the game, the run game too.”

South Carolina is as stingy stopping the run as anyone in the SEC besides Alabama. The Gamecocks are surrendering just 77.6 yards per game.

Georgia is ninth in the SEC in run defense at 147.8 yards per game and 10th in total defense at 370.2 yards per game.

“They’re scoring so fast,” Spurrier said. “You score fast, your defense has to play a lot more than what we do. It usually takes us a while to get it down the field and score.”

South Carolina trailed Kentucky 17-7 Saturday in the third quarter, but pulled away to a 38-17 victory.

Tailback Marcus Lattimore had 120 yards on 23 carries, picking up 108 yards on 18 rushes in the second half.

Lattimore has returned from a knee injury suffered midway through last season.

“I hope he’s where he was when he ran against Georgia two years ago,” Spurrier said of a 182-yard game. “That’s where I hope he is because that was sort of his coming-out day here at Williams-Brice two years ago. … I think he’s close to being just as good as he’s ever been.”

The last time GameDay broadcast from Columbia, the Gamecocks upset then No. 1 Alabama 35-21 on Oct. 9, 2010.

“That was one of the best days in Carolina football history,” Spurrier said. “It was the first time we ever beat a No. 1 team. It adds to the importance of the game. It sort of lets the world know, the country know, hey, South Carolina football is pretty good. We’re not quite where we want to be yet, but we’re up there amongst them, and hopefully we can keep pushing on.”

Notes: The Bulldogs scored their most points ever against Tennessee, but actually slid to No. 2 in the SEC in scoring offense behind Texas A&M after the Aggies’ 58-10 win over Arkansas. Texas A&M is averaging 48.25 points per game, 0.05 ahead of the Bulldogs. …Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson — who stirred up the Bulldogs with his “old man football” comment before the Bulldogs’ win — spoke to the media Saturday for the first time since before that game. Richardson, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, said he told Richt after the Bulldogs win, “best of luck to you the rest of the season” and that the comment shouldn’t have been “blown out of proportion.” He said that Richt told him, ‘I respect you more for coming and saying that.’”

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J.J. Green could be on move back to defense this week http://t.co/kcoIQlKZcG #UGA

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