Georgia/South Carolina features Top 25 teams

ATHENS - Nothing like a big game between neighbors on national TV to send people into a frenzy.

That's what Sanford Stadium will be like Saturday afternoon when Georgia hosts South Carolina in a battle between two top-25 schools located about 150 miles apart.

Georgia, having so far faced down injuries and suspensions, is quite interested in finally scoring a touchdown against South Carolina and getting some needed inertia going as it starts a stretch of three straight games against ranked teams.

South Carolina, after an equally busy off-season that still has the NCAA keeping an eye on things, seeks a second straight upset and wants to prove that its two-game winning streak against UGA - which was one fumble, a few seconds, and less than 10 yards away last year from becoming a three-game streak - was no fluke.

"The team that wins has got a chance to gain momentum and feel good about their chances," says Georgia coach Mark Richt. "The team that loses has their backs against the wall immediately. So it's a very, very  big game for both teams. It's got our attention, there's no doubt about it."

A primary reason for that was the way South Carolina handled then-No. 15 Virginia last week. The Gamecocks won 31-7 and racked up 423 yards total offense. Virginia, without talented quarterback Matt Schaub, managed only 170 yards and seven first downs.

The Cavaliers actually led in the game, going up 7-3 early in the second quarter. But all the momentum went to Carolina seven minutes later when Dondrial Pinkins hooked up with Troy Williamson for a 99-yard touchdown pass.

From then on, South Carolina's ability to maintain momentum and completely stifle Virginia is what impressed Richt the most.

"I saw a team that was entirely motivated, a team that was very physical offensively and defensively," he said. "They basically wore Virginia down at the end of the game. By the time it got to the fourth quarter, it was theirs. That's the sign of a team that's well-conditioned and well-coached and physical."

South Carolina's chances improve greatly if the Gamecocks can do one allegedly simple thing: catch the football.

So many passes have USC receivers dropped that Holtz discussed bringing in a psychologist. The tally is 17 over two games.

The Bulldogs, though, will be close to full strength to defend the pass, thanks to the return of Tim Jennings and DeMario Minter to the secondary. Both are key members of Georgia's pass defense alignments.

Georgia is still scanning the dial for the same wavelength. Against Clemson, the offensive line blew scores of fundamental assignments. A week later in a complete team effort, the Bulldogs were flagged a school-record 18 penalties.

"It's just more discipline than anything else," said Georgia quarterback David Greene. "We just didn't play disciplined football last week."

The penalty for the penalties?

"We ran," Greene said. "If you had a penalty, you ran for it."

Georgia should  be well-conditioned today.

That, of course, is on the list of 459 reasons Lou Holtz will use to show how much of an underdog his Gamecocks are. Holtz, who could make a multi-million dollar lottery win seem depressing, yanked his team off the field Thursday because of a bad practice, especially on defense.

"The execution was poor," he said. "Maybe they are intimidated by Georgia, I am not sure. The offense had a pretty good week of practice, but we have digressed since Tuesday."

Said Holtz, according to The State in Columbia: "They better put a third digit on the scoreboard. They (might) score 100."

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