Carolina game a bell weather for Dawgs

ATHENS – South Carolina has served as Georgia's opening conference opponent for the last 14 years.

The last time the Dawgs played someone else in an opener was in 1991 when they beat LSU 31-10. The recent history of the Carolina game and the impact of the result of the game on both teams' seasons is something that is not difficult for the Bulldogs to grasp.

"This is one of the biggest games of the year," senior Greg Blue said. "If we lose it's like we are two games back in the East."

The winner of this game has gone on to place ahead of the other in the final SEC standings all but one season since 1992. The Bulldogs' recent success against Carolina has propelled them to ten-win seasons.

"There are key games for everybody early on that set the tone, the tempo and the confidence level for a team," said Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt. "This game has been that one for us in recent history. The winner goes to a New Year¹s Day bowl, the loser doesn't. When we've won this game we've finished with 10 wins; when we've lost we've finished with eight wins."

The last two times South Carolina beat Georgia, in 2000 and 2001, the Gamecocks went on to have eight and nine-win seasons and back-to-back wins over Ohio State in the Outback Bowl. For the Bulldogs, the importance of the contest has a lot to do with the loser being in the SEC East basement.

"If you lose you are starting the season off at the bottom," said cornerback Demario Minter. "It would be hard to get back into the SEC race after a loss this week," concluded Blue. Indeed, Georgia is 42-13-2 all time against the Gamecocks (9-4 in the SEC), but in the 13 seasons where Georgia has lost to Carolina they have only once won the SEC title (1959).

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