Richt, Spurrier: This is a Big Game

ATHENS – Their season-opening routs out of the way, Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier tried not to turn their team's impending showdown into the game that will decide the season.

But neither did much to discount its importance either.

Spurrier, the South Carolina head coach, called Saturday's game against No. 23 Georgia "a big game. One of the biggest we've had here in awhile."

Richt, the Georgia head coach, called the Gamecocks a "more honest" test. Both for his Bulldogs and his rookie quarterback, Aaron Murray.

Back in July, when the media covering the SEC made its preseason picks, Georgia and South Carolina were second and third in the East, separated by a single vote. And with first-place favorite Florida sluggish in its season opener – and Georgia and South Carolina rolling – it only adds to the intrigue.

Georgia has taken seven out of the last eight in the series. However, all but two over that span were decided by a touchdown or less. And the point spread on this one figures to be within a few points.

This year, the teams are also on nearly the same page in a way they don't want to be: NCAA eligibility issues.

Richt had no update Sunday on the status of star receiver A.J. Green, who was withheld from Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette.

"Same answer right now," Richt said, continuing his string of no-comments on the matter.

Similarly, Spurrier had no update on his three players who were withheld from Thursday's season-opening win over Southern Miss. Tight end Weslye Saunders, cornerback Chris Culliver and tackle Jarriel King are all projected starters.

Spurrier was asked how Green's uncertain status would affect his team's preparation. He wasn't sure.

"As we've learned, we probably won't learn if he's playing or not until Saturday morning," Spurrier said of Green. "Or maybe Georgia may not know until then. Sometimes they don't let us know until the last minute."

The one thing both coaches do seem to know is that while Saturday's game will be important, it's also only the second game of the season, and the first league game.

"It's early. We don't know what's gonna happen down the road," Spurrier said. "Obviously both teams desperately wanna win it. It obviously put one of the two schools in pretty much a better position than the other. But all of our conference games are important, especially in the division."

"We'll have a decent idea in maybe two or three weeks how things are shaping up," Richt said. "I don't think anything will be final by then, but there'll be somebody in the lead. Or at least a couple teams there neck-and-neck."

In other news from each team:

- Richt said Georgia escaped the openers unscathed on the injury front. But South Carolina will still be without linebacker Shaq Wilson, its leading tackler last year, because of a hamstring injury. Antonio Allen, who starts as the Spur (hybrid safety-linebacker) has a chance to play.

- Georgia's tailback situation will be "interesting" to watch, according to Richt, thanks to the return of Washaun Ealey. Carlton Thomas looked good as the backup to Caleb King, and Richt could see all three getting carries.

"With Washaun coming back, it's gonna be hard to see exactly how the reps are distributed," Richt said.

- Spurrier heaped praise on Georgia's new 3-4 defense, and coordinator Todd Grantham. Spurrier did mistakenly call him "Lance" Grantham, the name of South Carolina's ticket sales director. But the Gamecock coach said the Bulldog defense looks "quite a bit different."

"Georgia has maybe as good a pass rush as anybody in the country right now, the way it looked this past Saturday," Spurrier said.


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