They're getting tougher and tougher.
After dominating Vanderbilt and holding off Tennessee the past two Saturdays at Sanford Stadium, the No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs will face their biggest challenge yet with a trip this week to No. 6 South Carolina. It will be the first in 65 series meetings in which the Bulldogs and Gamecocks are both top-10 teams.
"It's really what we come to schools like Georgia for," Bulldogs guard Chris Burnette said after Saturday's 51-44 win over the Volunteers. "You know that you're in a great league, and you know you're going to play great competition every week. You get a chance to be on TV, so it's awesome. We're excited for this week."
Georgia (5-0, 3-0 SEC) enters with 15 consecutive regular-season victories dating back to last season, and South Carolina (5-0, 3-0) has nine straight overall wins dating back to last year. The Gamecocks also won nine in a row to open the 1984 season, so a victory Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium would result in a new school standard.
ESPN's "College GameDay" show will broadcast in Columbia for the first time since South Carolina's upset of top-ranked Alabama in 2010, and Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier will enter the game with his sense of humor.
Asked Sunday what might make the difference in this week's clash, Spurrier said, "Whoever gets the most points. The most points will win it."
Georgia is averaging 536 yards a game behind quarterback Aaron Murray and the freshman tailback tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Murray ranks third nationally in pass efficiency — his 10.62 yards per attempt is second in the country — while Gurley leads the SEC with 107.5 yards a game and is third nationally with 7.88 yards a carry.
The Gamecocks allow just 288.8 yards a game and boast the defensive end tandem of Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor.
"South Carolina has a fast defense with two athletic ends, and we're going to their place," Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "It's going to be very hostile, and we've just got to prepare like we've done every week. We've got to realize that it's going to be a 60-minute fight, and we've got to realize that nothing will come easy.
"We have got to be balanced, and we've got to protect the ball. We cannot turn the ball over on the road."
Since opening with a 17-13 win at Vanderbilt, when quarterback Connor Shaw missed several minutes with a bruised shoulder, the Gamecocks have erupted to average 41.5 points per game. Georgia's defense played its best game in a 48-3 rout of the Commodores but ranks 57th nationally in rush defense (allowing 147.8 yards a game), 56th in pass defense (222.4) and 55th in total defense (370.2).
South Carolina won 45-42 last year over the Bulldogs in Athens, scoring on a fake punt, an interception return and a fumble return.
"They are scoring so fast, and when you score fast your defense has to play a lot more than what we do," Spurrier said. "Usually it takes us a while to get it down the field to score, so our defense is hopefully only out there 58 to 62 plays. I think Georgia has been scoring so fast and there have been so many turnovers in their games that their defense is just playing a lot more plays than a lot of the others."
This will be the first non-September meeting between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks since 1980, when Georgia won the national championship. When asked the difference in playing the Gamecocks later in the season, Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "We'll be watching this year's film instead of last year's film."
Odds and ends
Georgia leads the series 46-16-2, but South Carolina has won two straight. ... Bulldogs cornerback Sanders Commings on the Vols: "They gained some respect from me. I thought they were going to come in and just try to launch the ball all over the field, but they did a good job in the run game also."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...