The Georgia Bulldogs and South Carolina Gamecocks rivalry has been heating up the last few years.
The Gamecocks have defeated the Bulldogs three consecutive seasons, but the Bulldogs are the two-time defending SEC East champions.
This season, the Bulldogs would not only love to win the SEC East for the third consecutive year, but they would love to go perfect in the SEC, which means beating South Carolina in the second game of the year.
Despite playing at Sanford Stadium, the Gamecocks will be the favorites coming into the game because of recent history.
But the Bulldogs will leave Athens on September 7 victorious over the Gamecocks.
Here are five reasons why.
On offense, the Bulldogs should have all their offensive playmakers in the mix, including Michael Bennett who is coming off a torn ACL injury last season and Malcolm Mitchell who underwent knee surgery towards the end of spring practice.
As for South Carolina, the Gamecocks are looking to replace running back Marcus Lattimore and wide receiver Ace Sanders.
Both Lattimore and Sanders torched the Bulldogs the last couple of years, as well as many other teams in the SEC last year.
With both gone, that means the Gamecokcks will go into the game with inexperience at running back and a lack of a playmaker on the outside.
This will benefit a young Bulldogs defense especially with them coming off a game against Clemson which likes to spread the ball around with its playmakers.
It has been well documented that the Bulldogs will have a lot of work to do on defense because they lost 12 starters from last season.
But South Carolina has its own issues on defense, as the top five linebackers are gone from last season.
This means the linebackers are a very young group who will need to grow up in a hurry if they want to take down the Bulldogs.
But Aaron Murray knows how to attack the back seven of the Gamecocks defense. If the Bulldogs can hold the Gamecocks defensive line, them Murray will have a field day with South Carolina's defense.
Having this game at Sanford Stadium will benefit the Bulldogs a great deal.
Since 2011, Georgia has only lost one home game, which was against the Gamecocks in the second game of the 2011 season.
Recently, the Bulldogs played the Gamecocks tough at Sanford Stadium. UGA defeated South Carolina 41-37 back in 2009 and in 2007 the Bulldogs lost 16-12, but had every opportunity to win.
Mark Richt is known for having his teams ready to play on the road. But the reason the Bulldogs were the SEC East champs the last two seasons was the fact they knew how to protect their own turf.
This year will be more of a challenge to have a perfect home record, but in a game like this where so much is on the line early in the season, it would be very hard to see the Bulldogs go down in the home opener this year.
Murray has accomplished a lot during his time in Athens.
But there still a few things he would like to do before he leaves for the NFL and one of those things is taking down the Gamecocks.
Murray is 0-3 against South Carolina and for the most part has not looked that great in the losses.
But with this being his final season and knowing that he won’t get another shot against the Gamecocks, Murray will have a big game, which will lead to a win for the Bulldogs.
With the playmakers Murray has on the outside along with Marshall and Gurley, the offense won’t be shut down like they were last season. Murray will look to start fast and end faster, which would be the opposite of what happened last year.
And speaking of last year, the Bulldogs do not want to be embarrassed like they were last season as they fell to South Carolina 35-7.
Nothing went right for the Bulldogs that night and if it wasn’t for Florida defeating the Gamecocks later in the season, the Bulldogs would not have been the SEC East champions.
It has been since 2009 since the Bulldogs took down the Gamecocks, which is a long time for many Bulldog fans.
It is the first time South Carolina has won three straight against the Bulldogs and Richt knows that they can’t afford to lose to the team from Columbia again.
So the Bulldogs will come into this game with their backs against the wall. And just like many times before under Richt, when the Bulldogs are backed into a corner, they fight their way out.
This game will not be easy because it never is. But because of the last three years of this rivalry, expect the Bulldogs to come out swinging and not look back.