September 09, 2014

While it wasn't considered the favorite to win the SEC East at the beginning of this season, Georgia has appeared to claim that distinction after a convincing win over a ranked opponent and South Carolina's uninspiring performances in its first two games.

The sixth-ranked Bulldogs are likely aware that could change again with a third consecutive road loss to the No. 24 Gamecocks on Saturday.

Georgia (1-0) was picked to finish second behind South Carolina at the SEC media days in July, but the Bulldogs opened this season in far more impressive fashion than the Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1).

Before getting a week off, Georgia blew out then-No. 16 Clemson 45-21 on Aug. 30 behind Todd Gurley's career-high 198 rushing yards and four touchdowns, including one on a kickoff return. South Carolina, meanwhile, was routed 52-28 by then-No. 21 Texas A&M in its opener Aug. 28 - ending an 18-game home win streak - then had trouble putting away East Carolina in a 33-23 win this past Saturday.

The Gamecocks trailed by six points early in the second quarter, led by just four at halftime and had a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter until Elliot Fry's fourth field goal with 1:30 remaining. That showing dropped them another three spots in the AP poll, where they started the season at No. 9.

South Carolina is banking on a third straight home game and a potentially pivotal division showdown to help it rise to a better performance.

"Three weeks ago, we were advertised as the top team in the East and now (Georgia is) advertised as the top team in the East so a lot can change as we all know, but they're coming to our place," coach Steve Spurrier said.

Georgia beat the then-No. 6 Gamecocks 41-30 at home last September to end a series-worst three-game losing streak, but has scored more than 18 points in just one of its last nine visits to South Carolina, including six during coach Mark Richt's tenure.

They've been outscored 52-13 in back-to-back defeats in Columbia, the latest a 35-7 drubbing Oct. 6, 2012.

"We've got our work cut out for us," Richt said. "We've got to perform better than we have in that venue, offensively especially. We're looking forward to the challenge of it."

Georgia is opening with two Top 25 opponents for the third time in four seasons and has never won both games. The Bulldogs, though, will be bringing in one of the Heisman Trophy favorites in Gurley, who had 132 yards on 30 carries and a pair of touchdowns in last season's win over the Gamecocks.

With South Carolina likely focused on slowing Gurley down, Georgia might look to take advantage of a defense that's given up 832 yards through the air in its first two games. The Gamecocks allowed 321 passing yards to East Carolina but did get a pair of interceptions.

They also yielded 258 total yards in the final 42 minutes after giving 195 in the first 18.

"We're believing we can play a lot better, but we need to go do it on the field," Spurrier said. "This would be a good week to show that."

South Carolina running back Mike Davis had 149 yards - second-highest total in his career - and a touchdown in last year's matchup with Georgia, but has 116 in his first two contests this season.

He was held to 15 yards against Texas A&M before getting back to his more usual form versus East Carolina with 101 yards and two touchdowns.

Davis will try to keep the Gamecocks from starting 0-2 in conference for the first time since 2008. That season was also the last time South Carolina dropped two of its first three overall games.

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