Georgia vs. South Carolina: Inside the Matchup of Mark Richt vs. Steve Spurrier
Since 2005, South Carolina is 3-4 against their border rival Georgia.
Why start at 2005? Because that's when the Gamecocks got the ol' ball coach to take the reins of the team once Lou Holtz retired. And since that time, Steve Spurrier has changed the culture of football at the University of South Carolina.
But this Saturday is not about cultures being changed. It's about Spurrier's sixth-ranked Gamecocks hosting Mark Richt's fifth-ranked Bulldogs. For the schools, the game will determine who is in the driver's seat for the SEC East title. For the coaches, the game will be another significant chapter in their own quiet rivalry.
Who would have thought back in the 90s that the Florida-Florida State series would have been the proving ground for what we are in store for on Saturday in Columbia?
It was 1989, in fact, that Spurrier came aboard as Florida's head coach and created one of the most explosive passing attacks in the country at the time. But it was also a year later that Richt would rejoin the Florida State Seminoles as the team's quarterback coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator in 1994...and thus bring about one of the most explosive offenses in the country as well.
From 1990 through 2000, the Gators and Seminoles squared off 13 times with Richt and the Seminoles coming out on top in eight of those contests with Spurrier's Gators only claiming four in the process. (The 1994 game ended in a tie.)
By the end of the decade, Richt and Spurrier were headed in separate directions.
Richt went to Georgia in 2001, and Spurrier jumped to the NFL briefly for three seasons in 2002.
By 2005, Spurrier was back in the college game and right back into the SEC where he had dominated for so many years with Florida. And what do you know, but three hours away from Columbia in Athens, GA was Spurrier's old nemesis Richt to pick up where they left off in the Sunshine State.
Since 2001, Richt has weathered plenty of criticism and scrutiny over his job security to post two SEC Championships and two BCS bowl game wins, while Spurrier has brought South Carolina to its lone SEC East title in the school's history since he took over in 2005.
What both Richt and Spurrier have brought to their respective schools now is their sense of big-play offense from their days battling down in Florida.
In 2012, Richt's Bulldogs are 29th in passing and 11th in rushing while also posting an average of 48.2 points a game.
Spurrier might be a little more "glass half empty" about the Gamecocks in the passing game, which is still a far cry from the "Fun 'n Gun" he put into play at Florida, but he still has South Carolina posting 236 yards a game through the air on average along with an average of 36.6 points per game. Clearly, stats-wise, Richt has the edge in terms of offense versus offense.
And after last year's wild 45-42 finish in Athens that gave the Gamecocks their second win in a row versus Georgia, the respective offenses seem primed for a repeat, with their respective defenses thinking otherwise.
A victory on Saturday would even up the head coaching series between Spurrier and Richt at four games apiece between South Carolina and Georgia. As much as their paths have crossed, though, from the 90s to now, you couldn't have asked for two more polar opposite personalities.
That is what will make Saturday a real treat for college football. The cool, calm and collected Richt looking across at the recalcitrant, ever ready to explode Spurrier. Two coaches at the crossroads of a possible SEC Championship for both of their schools. Two coaches ready to make history again.
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