As the No. 6 Gamecocks prepare to take on the No. 11 Bulldogs on Saturday, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier played a little motivational music during his team’s practice Monday.
“We had Willie Nelson’s Georgia On My Mind blaring yesterday,” Spurrier said during his news conference Tuesday. “Most of our players thought it was Ray Charles, but it was Willie Nelson.”
All joking aside, Saturday’s game has big implications for both schools. The winner is presumed to have the upper hand in the race for the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division, but don’t tell the Gamecocks that.
South Carolina has beaten the Bulldogs three years running, but the Bulldogs have represented the East in the SEC championship game the past two seasons.
“We’re tied for the division lead right now,” said Spurrier, rattling off most of the SEC East teams. “We’ve also learned that the winner doesn’t necessarily win the Eastern Division.”
With 27 players from Georgia, the Gamecocks also see the annual showdown with the Bulldogs as a potential recruiting tool. Spurrier said Georgia produces the most Division I football players in the country.
“There’s so many players in greater Atlanta and the state of Georgia, if we can go in there and get our share, a two and a half hour, three hour drive from greater Atlanta, that’s going to help us,” he said.
Defensive end Chaz Sutton, who is from Savannah, agreed.
“Me being from Georgia, there was a lot of talk about UGA football,” Sutton said. “I didn’t get into it too much until I was in high school.
“It’s always great to go home and have the game on our shoulders and we came out with a ‘W.’ We have bragging rights when I go home.”
Spurrier, who tormented the Bulldogs during his coaching days at Florida, said the Gamecocks haven’t had enough success against Georgia to warrant extra attention. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series 46-17-2.
“We haven’t beat them enough for them to circle South Carolina and say that’s the team we’ve got to beat,” Spurrier said.
South Carolina used a quick start to jump on Georgia early in a 35-7 victory last season in Columbia.
While the Gamecocks are going for an unprecedented fourth consecutive win, Spurrier is downplaying that streak.
“We haven’t talked too much about that,” he said. “We’ve talked about winning us a ball game and pursuing a lot of goals we have. All our players know what our goals are.”