There have been some memorable victories, some brutal losses, and the constant of blazing hot weather when Georgia and South Carolina have squared off in Williams-Brice Stadium. Back in 1959, Georgia’s great 10-1 squad that captured the Southeastern Conference championship and won the Orange Bowl suffered its lone loss at South Carolina. The “Wonderdogs” of 1978 had a 9-1-1 regular season, the tie at Auburn, the loss in Columbia. But the 21st century especially has been extremely tough for the Bulldogs in the capital of the Palmetto State.
Then tenth-ranked Georgia was favored by 9.5 points in 2000, but a stingy South Carolina defense intercepted Bulldog quarterback Quincy Carter five times and pulled off a 21-10 upset win that jump-started the Gamecocks under Lou Holtz’s watch. Two years later, what turned out to be a great Georgia squad – one that would capture the SEC title and finish No. 3 nationally with a 13-1 record – hung on by inches to defeat the Gamecocks 13-7 without an offensive touchdown. David Pollack made his famed play and Thomas Davis recovered a fumble inside the five in the final minute. Whew. What might have been? Thankfully the Bulldogs didn’t have to find out. A far superior Georgia squad, which was ranked No. 3 nationally, fell behind 16-0 in 2004 but fought back behind the excellent play of senior quarterback David Greene to escape with a 20-16 win. In 2000, Georgia entered the contest No. 10, the following trip the Dogs were No. 9 and in 2004, Georgia was No. 3. South Carolina was unranked on all three occasions.
That trend would continue in 2006. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 9, South Carolina was not in the polls. Though this would turn out to be a disappointing year for Georgia, it was an excellent night in Columbia. Less than 48 hours after the passing of the legendary, iconic Erk Russell, the Bulldogs registered an 18-0 victory over South Carolina. It was Georgia’s first road shutout of an SEC foe since 1980, the 17th and final year of the great man’s tenure as the Bulldogs defensive coordinator.
Second-ranked Georgia, with Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and AJ Green scored one offensive touchdown in a 14-7 win over unranked South Carolina in 2008. Brian Mimbs punted great, the Dogs got a fumble in the end zone and Reshad Jones had the game-saving pick.
In 2010, No. 24 South Carolina rode stellar freshman tailback Marcus Lattimore to a 17-6 win over the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs 2012 squad, which finished No. 4 nationally and came within a hair of winning the SEC Championship Game and playing for the national title, got embarrassed in Columbia, as the sixth-ranked Gamecocks routed No. 5 Georgia 35-7.
Georgia was ranked sixth in 2014, South Carolina No. 24. Down 38-35, the Dogs were first and goal on the Gamecocks three in the closing minute. Instead of giving the ball to the best active running back on the planet, the Bulldogs chose a pass play and were flagged for grounding. In the same game in which a record was set for consecutive field goals made by a kicker, Georgia misfired on a short one to tie it. This was a bad loss that got some wheels in motion.
Because of a hurricane, the Bulldogs and Gamecocks had a Sunday showdown in 2016. Both were unranked. Georgia dominated, but led only 21-14 late until Terry Godwin ran an onsides kick back for a touchdown, and, much to Brent Musberger’s chagrin, a cover. Call that one, the first meeting as head coaches for Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp, a 28-14 Bulldog win.
So, in the nine meetings at Williams Brice Stadium in the 21st century, Georgia was ranked higher than the Gamecocks eight times. The last time both were unranked. Seven times Georgia was in the top ten. The Bulldogs are 5-4 against South Carolina in Columbia in the 2000’s. Three of those five wins – in all three Georgia was in the top ten, the Gamecocks unranked – came by six, four and seven points.
Smart’s third team has a target squarely on its collective chest. The defending SEC champions, with a talent-laden roster chock full of freshmen and sophomores, have been a pick by many in the national punditry to fall victim to a South Carolina upset. The Gamecocks are a trendy pick, and the history between these two in Columbia offers plenty of evidence that the third-ranked Bulldogs will have their hands full with the unranked Gamecocks.
But as bright, young, reigning Coach of the Year likes to say, “pressure is a privilege.”
Last season’s sensational Georgia squad checked off so many boxes and shed numerous skins. Now the Bulldogs of 2018 will get their first chance to make their mark and keep this awakened giant of a program on a rocket-fueled upward trajectory. But as the Greatest Bulldog Ever Dan Magill would so often say, “I’ll take a one-point win right now.” Judging by what has transpired at Williams-Brice in the 2000s, it just might come down to that Saturday afternoon.