Athens, GA – The 11th-ranked Georgia Bulldogs go from the frying pan into the fire, as they play host to the sixth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon.
It is the SEC opener for both, as each team has dreams of playing in the conference championship game and challenging for a spot in the BCS National title tilt.
South Carolina kicked off its season last Thursday by taking on border rival North Carolina, and the Gamecocks prevailed at home, 27-10. It was the 14th consecutive season-opening victory for USC, and it was the 17th straight over a non-conference foe in the regular season. It also ran the Gamecocks' home winning streak to 12 games, which is the third-longest streak in school history.
Then fifth-ranked Georgia participated in the marquee matchup of college football's opening weekend, facing No. 8 Clemson on the road, and while the Bulldogs played valiantly but fell in the end, 38-35. Georgia is facing a top-10 opponent in back-to-back weeks for the first time since 1998, and the 'Dawgs are 5-4 all-time against a top-10 foe at Sanford Stadium.
Historically, Georgia has dominated the series with South Carolina, going 46-16-2, but the Gamecocks have had the upper hand of late, winning each of the last three meetings, including last year's 35-7 decision in Columbia.
While realizing his team has had the Bulldogs' number recently, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier knows all too well the kind of focus and effort it's going to take to win this game.
"We had Willy Nelson's "Georgia on My Mind" playing yesterday. We always put that music on during stretching. So that's all we are trying to do, get Georgia on our mind, the plays we think that'll give us a chance to beat them. They are a good team, they'll be ready for us, you know they got beat last week so they'll be ready."
Georgia head coach Mark Richt is also aware of the recent past between the two teams.
"South Carolina is a very good football team obviously. The last couple of years they have won 11 ballgames and they've beaten us three years in a row. We have a great challenge ahead of us."
The Gamecocks scored the first 17 points of last week's season opener against North Carolina, and didn't need any more as they topped the Tar Heels with relative ease. Quarterback Connor Shaw didn't have his best game, going just 11-of-20 for 149 yards, but he did throw a 65-yard TD pass to Shaq Roland less than a minute and a half into the first quarter. He also added 43 yards on the ground, although it was Mike Davis who led the USC rushing attack with 115 yards and a score on a dozen totes.
From a defensive standpoint, T.J. Gurley led the Gamecocks with nine tackles, seven of which were solo efforts. The team as a whole was credited with three sacks, although none belonged to superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who apparently needs to work on his conditioning as he admitted to being tired throughout the game. The Heels were held to just 99 net rushing yards and managed only one offensive TD on the night.
Led by veteran QB Aaron Murray (20-of-29, 319 yards, one interception), the Georgia offense amassed 545 total yards against Clemson in week one, but he did not throw a TD pass, instead it was Todd Gurley and the rushing attack that did all of the scoring (five TDs). Gurley (12 carries, 154 yards, two TDs). Gurley was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
The Bulldogs not only lost the game, but WR Malcolm Mitchell as well as he is expected to miss the remainder of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee during a touchdown celebration. Mitchell was the top returning receiver for UGA.
Penalties (9-84) and third-down conversions (4-of-14) hurt the 'Dawgs as well, areas in which Richt hopes his team improves dramatically in the weeks to come.
Clemson's Taj Boyd carved up the Georgia defense for 270 yards and three TDs in the opener, the Tigers generating 467 yards of total offense. Ramik Wilson tallied a game-high 13 tackles, while Amarlo Herrera also hit double figures with a dozen. The Bulldogs also came up with one turnover and one sack, so creating more opportunities will be integral to any success the unit achieves this season.