In Mark Richt's nine seasons as head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs, almost every game with South Carolina has been a struggle. The Gamecocks are historically a smash-mouth football team, and normally the team with the best defense is the one that comes out on top.
In the Mark Richt era, games between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks have been decided by an average of eight points. Excluding a lopsided 31-7 Bulldog victory in 2003, the average margin of victory is six points.
In addition, both teams belong to the Eastern division of the SEC, so a win in the rivalry is always important to either team's SEC Championship hopes.
This season will be no different as there are high hopes for the 2010 season in both Athens and Columbia.
With the return of quarterback Stephen Garcia, South Carolina hopes to have an effective offense that will make them competitive in the SEC. In recent years, consistency on offense, not defense, has been the downfall of the Gamecocks.
Georgia also expects to make some noise. Taking advantage of their potent running attack, an improved defense, and a manageable schedule, the Bulldogs hope to steal an SEC East title from the "rebuilding" Gators.
However, if Georgia is going to have a shot at winning the SEC East, they must start 2-0 - which would entail a win at South Carolina on September 11th.
Both teams will have only played one game so far, and both should enter this showdown at 1-0. South Carolina's defense is extremely talented and experienced so this may spell trouble for Georgia's redshirt freshman quarterback, Aaron Murray who will have to grow up quickly with three of the first four games being against SEC teams on the rise (South Carolina, Arkansas, and Mississippi State).
In order to defeat the Gamecocks the Bulldogs are going to have to do three things: Run the ball effectively, play sound defense, and avoid turnovers.
If the Dawgs are able to run the ball with Caleb King and Washaun Ealey effectively not only will it keep the Carolina offense on the sidelines, but also open up the play-action game which is pretty staright forward when you have AJ Green at reciever.
Playing sound defense is something Georgia should improve on drastically this season. They will have to make tackles and avoid blown coverages because the Gamecock offense will be fluid both running and passing.
Finally, avoiding turnovers may be the difference maker in this game. South Carolina's offense and defense thrive on takeaways. Last season, in games where USC had more than 30 points they averaged 2.5 takeaways. The Bulldogs need to take care of the ball.
As usual, this game will be a nailbiter. The winner of this game is in good shape to have a great season. The loser, on the other hand, may suffer the consequences of losing a division game early in the season.
If the Georgia Bulldogs are going to surprise the country and have a chance to win an SEC title, they must beat the South Carolina Gamecocks.