COLUMBIA, S.C. - So many championships and victories later, Georgia icon Vince Dooley still can't fully figure it out: Why'd his Bulldogs struggle so much with South Carolina?
It's a legacy that's stuck to the Bulldogs from Dooley all the way to current coach Mark Richt. South Carolina can't match Georgia's championship history or, most years, its top-level recruiting classes. Yet the Gamecocks have sprung more than their share of surprises on the confident Dawgs through the years.
Georgia lost just twice last season. One of them, though, was a 16-12 defeat by South Carolina, which finished 6-6 as the Bulldogs went on to the Bowl Championship Series.
No. 2 Georgia (2-0) figures on another tight one Saturday when it opens Southeastern Conference play at South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC).
'We've had some great teams that ended up being champions of the SEC that struggled' with South Carolina, Dooley said this week. 'It's a good rivalry that's had a consistent history of that.'
And it didn't take Dooley, who coached 25 seasons, long to discover that. The Gamecocks were in the midst of a 15-game winless streak when they tied Dooley's first Georgia team 7-7 in 1964. Two years later, a South Carolina club that finished 1-9 and scored fewer than 10 points a game gave Dooley's SEC champs everything they wanted before Georgia got out with a 7-0 win.
Then in 1968, the Bulldogs were headed to another SEC title. But they trailed the Gamecocks 20-0 before pulling out the 21-20 victory, Dooley recalled.
Richt knows how Dooley feels.
South Carolina handed Richt his first Georgia loss, a 14-9 defeat in 2001. Georgia won at least 10 games and three SEC titles the next four seasons, but only once beat the Gamecocks by more than a touchdown.
Then came last year. Despite an improved Matthew Stafford at quarterback and dynamic Knowshon Moreno to run the ball, Georgia couldn't fashion a touchdown and nearly fell out of the rankings after the South Carolina loss.
'We are playing the team we always play first, the one that's always kind of a bloodbath for some reason,' Richt says. 'It's just a game that almost always is very close.'
SideBar: Georgia at South Carolina
· When: Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
· Where: Columbia, S.C.
· TV/Radio: CBS/750-AM