COLUMBIA --- Expect a tight, low-scoring affair when Georgia and South Carolina meet Saturday in their Southeastern Conference openers.
"The last couple of years, it's turned into a big rivalry. It's just a physically fought game, especially on the defensive side of the ball," Georgia safety Bryan Evans said.
The game has been decided by a touchdown or less six of the eight times Georgia coach Mark Richt has been on the sidelines. It has often been a costly mistake that turned the tide.
Last season, Gamecocks quarterback Chris Smelley threw an interception inside the Georgia 10 with 13 seconds left in a 14-7 South Carolina loss.
In 2002, Bulldogs defensive end David Pollack batted down and intercepted a pass in the end zone, while South Carolina running back Andrew Pinnock fumbled twice inside the Georgia 5, including on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard-line with 12 seconds left.
"As we know, it's a team that we have always had great battles with and very, very close games. We have won six of the last eight and just about every time we play, the score is within a touchdown," Richt said. "Rarely has anybody scored more than 20 points on either side. The way it's shaping up, it looks like another one of those, quite frankly."
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier pointed out Tuesday the most either team has scored since he arrived is 18 points. But he is at a loss to explain why beyond suggestions that the teams traditionally open the SEC season with each other and tend to play closer to the vest when the game appears to be going down to the wire.
"You sort of get conservative if you don't have confidence your guys can really take care of the ball when you're in a close game like that," Spurrier said. "But at some point, we've got to let our guys go play."
It didn't use to be like this for Spurrier.
His Florida teams averaged 36 points a game against the Bulldogs, going 11-1 as a coach against the team who beat him in his senior year with the Gators, denying the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback what would have been the school's first SEC title.
But with the Gamecocks he's gone 1-3 against Georgia, his team scoring less than 10 points a game and tallying just three offensive touchdowns in four contests. In 1995, Spurrier's Gators threw seven touchdowns in a 52-17 win over the Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium, which remains the most points an opponent has scored between the hedges.
"There's a fine line there between playing wide open and smart," Spurrier said. "Whatever it takes to win the game is obviously what we ought to try to do."