COLUMBIA — History won’t have a major impact on Saturday night’s game between sixth-ranked South Carolina and fifth-ranked Georgia, the game of the week in college football and the game of the Gamecocks’ season so far.
Perhaps USC can take some lessons from having defeated the Bulldogs during the past two seasons, in a series Georgia leads 46-16-2. USC has won back-to-back games over Georgia six times, but has never won three straight. The Gamecocks got a pretty good look at Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the last two meetings.
Last season, Murray was 19-of-29 passing for 248 yards, four touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a touchdown — a huge play in USC’s 45-42 win. Murray was also sacked by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and lost the ball, leading to a fumble return for a touchdown that put USC up 45-35 with 3:12 left in the game. Two years ago against USC, Murray was 14-of-21 passing for 192 yards, as the Gamecocks won, 17-6.
So the Gamecocks’ history facing Murray could help them. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have never faced USC quarterback Connor Shaw, who didn’t become the starter until four games after USC and Georgia met last season.
But the history that would put a USC win in perspective comes in the form of the Gamecocks’ record against highly ranked teams.
USC is 9-73 all-time against top 10 teams, including 6-43 since its landmark 1984 season and 3-11 under coach Steve Spurrier, who arrived in 2005. Against the top 5, USC is 3-36 all-time, 2-25 since 1984 and 2-7 under Spurrier.
Spurrier’s three top 10 wins: No. 8 Kentucky in 2007 (USC was No. 11), No. 4 Mississippi in 2009 (USC was unranked) and No. 1 Alabama in 2010 (USC was No. 19). USC’s three all-time wins over the top 5 also include No. 3 North Carolina in 1981 (USC was unranked).
Against teams that finished the season in the top 10, USC is 7-81-2 all-time, 2-48 since 1984 and 2-11 under Spurrier. Against teams that finished the season in the top 5, USC is 3-46 all-time, 1-30 since 1984 and 1-8 under Spurrier.
USC’s two wins since 1984 over teams that finished in the top 10: No. 2 Georgia in 2007 and No. 10 Alabama in 2010. The Bulldogs were No. 11 when they played USC in the second game of 2007, and they finished that season 11-2. USC also beat No. 5 Georgia in 1959 and No. 4 Michigan in 1980.
Georgia in 2007 remains one of Spurrier’s most impressive wins at USC. Saturday would rank up there, too, considering USC has played just one game in which the teams had a better combined ranking. USC and Georgia’s combined ranking of 11 trails only the 1987 regular season finale trip to No. 2 Miami, when USC was No. 8.
“This is a huge game,” Spurrier said. “We all know it.”
The atmosphere will be heightened by the presence of ESPN’s “College GameDay” pregame show, which is coming to Columbia for the sixth time.
“It adds to the importance of the game, just sort of lets the world know, the country know, that, hey, South Carolina football is pretty good,” Spurrier said. “We’re not quite where we want to be yet, but we’re up there amongst them and hopefully we can keep pushing on.”
If USC beats Georgia and No. 4 LSU beats No. 10 Florida in Gainesville this weekend, then next week’s USC-LSU game in Baton Rouge will be another huge matchup of undefeated teams. The game will kick off at 8 p.m. and air on ESPN.
USC is 2-16-1 against LSU (1-4-1 as an SEC member) and has lost four straight meetings.
The SEC on Monday named Clowney its defensive lineman of the week — the second time in five games this season that he has received the honor. In the 38-17 win at Kentucky, Clowney had four tackles, including 2½ for a loss, and a sack.
Starting right tackle Mike Matulis missed the Kentucky game with a sprained shoulder that limited his participation in practices last week. Brandon Shell (Goose Creek High) played in his place.
Spurrier said Sunday he is hopeful that Matulis will be able to play this week.