Until last season’s 35-7 victory, South Carolina’s football teams had never defeated Georgia three times in a row. As the Gamecocks look to extend that winning streak to four games Saturday in Athens, they continue to go up against history as much as they do their neighboring foe.
The Bulldogs still lead the series that dates back to 1894 by a margin of 46-17-2. They won 10 straight meetings between 1908 and 1941. They won another 10 in a row between 1966 and 1977. And since USC joined them in the SEC in 1992, the Bulldogs have posted winning streaks of three games (1997-99) and five games (2002-06).
This recent turnaround by South Carolina has real meaning for the players, especially senior quarterback Connor Shaw, who grew up in Flowery Branch, Ga.
“I haven’t lost against Georgia, so it would be special for our seniors to go out 4-0 against them,” Shaw said. “We’ll just take it play-by-play and see how the game comes. It’s a great rivalry. It’s really intense. We’ve got a lot of guys from Georgia, they’ve got some guys from South Carolina. So it’s going to be a fun game for us.”
The Gamecocks won 17-6 behind freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore in 2010. They won 45-42 the next season in a wild shootout highlighted by defensive lineman Melvin Ingram’s breakout game. And they romped to a big win in a Top 10 matchup a year ago.
USC coach Steve Spurrier doesn’t get too wrapped up in the ramping up of the rivalry. He simply knows that both teams can use a win to kick off the SEC schedule as they attempt to claim the Eastern Division title – won by USC in 2010 and Georgia the past two seasons.
“We still haven’t beaten them enough for them to sort of circle South Carolina. But we’ve been fortunate the last few years,” Spurrier said. “That’s all history. The game this week, on Saturday at 4:30, is the one that counts, and we’re trying to focus as best we can to see if we can play well.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt won seven of his first nine meetings against the Gamecocks. But he has seen Spurrier elevate the USC program into the Top 10, and those last three wins against the Bulldogs have not only helped establish the Gamecocks’ national credibility but also made Georgia players very hungry to get back on top in the series.
“South Carolina is a very good football team obviously,” Richt said. “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. We have maybe a few redshirt seniors who have been on a team that had a victory over South Carolina, but no one else has had that distinction.”
Georgia senior defensive lineman Garrison Smith, who is 0-3 in his career against the Gamecocks, talked about how badly he wants to win this one.
“You want every game bad. We don’t like losses, and I don’t like losing,” Smith said. “Nobody likes losing. We just have to go out there and do the best we can and try and get the W.”
With both the No. 6 Gamecocks (1-0) and the No. 11 Bulldogs (0-1) eyeing a trip to the SEC championship game in December, the stakes have escalated greatly in the series as USC has become more competitive.
Junior wide receiver Nick Jones likes that he’s part of a burgeoning rivalry that’s no longer so one-sided, especially since there are championship ramifications, too.
“It’s a big deal now because both teams are national title contenders, and we all want the bragging rights to win the game,” Jones said. “This is what I dreamed about before I came to Carolina, being a part of the big programs, winning the big games. So it’s kind of a big deal to me.”