South Carolina found itself down by double digits to East Carolina last weekend in Charlotte, but Steve Spurrier's group rallied for a 56-37 victory, the 12th straight season-opening win for the program. The Gamecocks went 9-5 last season and claimed the SEC East title for the first time, but they lost to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Still, coach Spurrier has deemed this group of Gamecocks his most talented since taking over the program, and expectations have never been higher in Columbia.
As for Georgia, it simply couldn't hang with fifth-ranked Boise State last weekend, as the Broncos won the showdown in Atlanta by a 35-21 final.
"Obviously we knew going in they were pretty darn good," said Georgia coach Mark Richt. "They just beat us tonight. They were better than we were."
The Bulldogs started 1-4 a year ago and finished with seven losses, leading to cries for Richt's job. Richt, the longest-tenured coach at his current school in the SEC, is back at the helm, but he hasn't had the Bulldogs in contention for an SEC title in quite some time and the natives are clearly restless.
Georgia owns a commanding 46-15-2 series lead over South Carolina, but the Gamecocks won last season's meeting by a 17-6 final.
Stephen Garcia rescued South Carolina's struggling offense last week against East Carolina. Sophomore Connor Shaw started in place of Garcia, but was replaced in the second quarter with the Gamecocks trailing 17-0. Garcia completed 7-of-15 passes for 110 yards and score and also ran for a pair of touchdowns.
"Somebody on the sideline told me that you can't win it with one drive," Garcia said. "Just take it one drive at a time, one drive at a time, and that was my mentality in the second half. After seeing us down 17-0, I just tried to lead the team down and score as many points as we possibly could."
Heisman hopeful Marcus Lattimore ran for 112 yards and three scores, showcasing the rare blend of speed and power that makes him one of the elite players at his position in all of college football.
"The whole second half we played well," Lattimore said. "The offensive line did a great job."
South Carolina star receiver Alshon Jeffery hauled in five catches for 92 yards, and the club finished with just 351 total yards, a rather low figure considering the 56 points scored. It is important to note that the Gamecocks scored touchdowns on both defense and special teams.
Make no mistake, the South Carolina defense struggled against East Carolina in the opener, yielding five touchdowns to the Pirates. Fortunately, the Gamecocks were able to come up with five takeaways, the most obvious reason for the triumph. Antonio Allen made the biggest play of the game for Spurrier's squad, picking up a fumble and racing 25 yards for a score.
Georgia received a respectable effort from sophomore Aaron Murray in the double-digit loss to Boise State, as he completed 16-of-29 passes for 236 yards and two scores with one interception.
"Aaron, he's really a coach's dream in how he approaches the game," says Richt. "He understands preparation. He understands team. His motivation is for Georgia to win. His motivation is to see his teammates have success. His motivation is not to promote self. When you have a guy like that, it just makes your life a whole lot easier."
Brandon Boykin had an 80-yard touchdown run and Orson Charles caught six passes for 109 yards and a score for the Bulldogs, who posted 373 total yards but lost the time of possession battle by seven-and-a-half minutes.
Defensively, Georgia allowed three passing scores and a pair of rushing touchdowns to Boise State last weekend. The Broncos finished with 390 total yards and held possession of the ball for nearly 34 minutes. The Bulldogs came up with one takeaway, an interception, and managed to hold Boise State to 4- of-12 success on third down conversion attempts. Still, the negatives outweighed the positives.