As the last decade proves, the Gamecocks deserve credit for being a nerve-wracking foe to the Bulldogs

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As the last decade proves, the Gamecocks deserve credit for being a nerve-wracking foe to the Bulldogs

Jeff Dantzler

Gorgia Tech game is always the one I get the most nervous about. As a lifelong Georgia fan, it’s about sheer happiness versus agony. It’s about whether you put up a Christmas tree or not. The second most nerve-racking game has been South Carolina.

You know the Gamecocks are always going to be jacked up to play Georgia. The Bulldogs are their second biggest rival behind Clemson. It’s never been a worry about Georgia being up for Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU, Alabama or Clemson. But for the South Carolina game, which is obviously a big game every year, even extra since they joined the Southeastern Conference and became a permanent East Division foe in 1992, the feeling has often been that it means more to the Gamecocks faithful.

Recruiting is of course a huge element of any rivalry.

South Carolina always has a lot of players from the state of Georgia who may not have been nearly as heavily recruited by the Bulldogs. That certainly wasn’t the case with the Gamecocks greatest player, George Rogers of Duluth, Georgia. But if Rogers was at Georgia, who knows if Herschel Walker would have become a Bulldog? The Bulldogs have certainly had a slew of tremendous players from the Palmetto State, including Frank Ros, Jeff Hipp Clarence Kay, Jimmy Harrell and A.J. Green. But the percentage of players from the other state on rosters leans heavily towards Peach State products playing for the Gamecocks. Off a brief scan of the South Carolina roster, I count 19 players from the state of Georgia. They’ll play with a chip on their shoulder. Most, not all, but most, were not recruited as heavily by the Bulldogs, especially since the uptick in prospect procurement under Kirby Smart’s watch. Linebacker Channing Tindall and walk-on quarterback Jackson Muschamp, who’s father Will Muschamp is the now former head coach of South Carolina, are the only two players on the Bulldogs roster from the Palmetto State.

When comparing the history of the two programs, which both have passionate, loyal fan bases, standing strong in good times, and bad, and mediocre, Georgia has the distinct historical edge.

Before Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Columbia in 2005, only the Gamecocks great team of 1984 won double digit games in a season, going 10-2. They were 9-0, and then lost to Navy. Spurrier led South Carolina to the 2010 SEC Championship Game, the Gamecocks first, and still only trip. They went 9-5 that year, then went 11-2 the next three seasons. It was a tremendous run of success, far and away South Carolina’s best ever. The Gamecocks have won one conference championship, capturing the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 1969, posting a 7-4 overall record, 6-0 in the league, under Paul Dietzel’s watch.

Georgia leads the all-time series with South Carolina 51-19-2, but the Gamecocks have torpedoed some fantastic Bulldogs teams grandest dreams.

Three times, Georgia has lost one regular season game, and that loss has been to South Carolina.

It happened in 1959. Georgia won the SEC championship, went 10-1 and defeated Missouri in the Orange Bowl, finishing No. 5 in the final polls. The only loss came to South Carolina, 30-14, in Columbia.

Georgia went 9-1-1 in the 1978 regular season. The Wonderdogs just missed out on the SEC title with a 22-22 tie at Auburn. The regular season loss came 27-10 at South Carolina. Georgia also, for the record, lost a Bluebonnet Bowl heartbreaker to Bill Walsh’s Stanford Cardinal 25-22.

There was 2019. Ouch. The Bulldogs turned it over four times and missed two field goals – one was blocked to end the half, the other wide to end the game in overtime – in a 20-17 overtime loss to the Gamecocks. Georgia rallied to go 11-1 for a third straight regular season and earned a third consecutive date in the SEC Championship Game. Would a win over the Gamecocks gotten the Bulldogs a berth in the playoff, even with the loss to LSU in Atlanta? Who knows? But that was a bad day in Athens.

Another all-time bad loss to the Gamecocks was in 2007. Georgia went four of five on field goals and lost 16-12. Knowshon Moreno ran the Bulldogs down the field twice, and in the two subsequent red zone trips he was off the field on five of six plays with no touchdes, as Georgia stalled and kicked. Georgia wound up 11-2, ranked No. 2 in the nation, but didn’t get a berth in the SEC Championship Game or the National Championship Game. Yes the Bulldogs also lost badly at Tennessee that year, but in the previous two weeks while Georgia was slugging it out with Alabama and Ole Miss, the Vols had Arkansas State and an open date. The Gamecocks loss is the one that separated the Bulldogs from quite possibly a national and SEC title.

Georgia has enjoyed tremendous success over its rivals under Smart’s watch. Going back to Mark Richt’s tenure, the Bulldogs have had great records against Auburn, Tennessee and Tech over varying periods. Georgia went 8-2 against Tech and Tennessee in the 2010s, 8-3 versus Auburn in the decade and 6-4 against the Gators. But, going back to three straight losses to Spurrier Gamecock teams (the Bulldogs had never before lost three in a row in the series) from 2010-2012, and another crusher to South Carolina when Georgia didn’t give it to Todd Gurley inside the five and got an intentional grounding penalty and then missed a second field goal of the day in a 38-35 loss to the Gamecocks in 2014, the Bulldogs, after last season’s crusher, went just 5-5 against South Carolina in the decade. It was Georgia’s first loss under Smart’s watch in four games against the Gamecocks.

It has been a tumultuous 2020 for everyone, and that goes extra for South Carolina. One Georgia alum is out as the head coach, and another, Mike Bobo is in. The former got his signature win against his alma mater and friend on the opposing sideline last season. The latter will try and do the same on Saturday in Columbia.

Smart’s Bulldogs can still have an outstanding season. To do so, it will take a win over the Gamecocks, tilting the series back Georgia’s way.

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