If you ask any member of the Bulldog Nation who the biggest rivals of the Georgia Bulldogs are, the answer will come back Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech, nine times out of ten.
There are always a few who have a particular disdain for Tennessee or Alabama or even LSU, based on skirmishes from previous years (or that 9-year strech when the Volunteers basically owned Georgia in the 1990s).
But rarely do you hear anyone mention South Carolina…that is until the beginning of football season, when the Gamecocks almost always appear early on the calendar and generally end up being Georgia’s first conference opponent. At that point, fans realize that the Gamecocks present not only an opportunity, but many times, a challenge.
But even at that, you almost never hear fans talking about South Carolina as one of the big rivals…the hated rivals…the ones you circle on the calendar every season.
Maybe they should be.
The series with South Carolina is older than many think, with the first game being played in 1894. The two teams met without any regularity until the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. At that point, South Carolina became a regular opponent on Georgia’s schedule.
The teams have met a total of 66 times, with Georgia holding a 47-17-2 lead in the series. For that reason, it really doesn’t sound like much of a rivalry.
But in the Steve Spurrier era, South Carolina has taken a place of prominence in the SEC East, competing nearly every year for the division title, and putting together impressive seasons with more on the way. While it’s hard to give credence to a rivalry that is really only in it’s infancy, other factors play into the two schools becoming more antagonistic towards each other.
Recruiting is huge factor. Athens, Ga. and Columbia, S.C. are only 2.5 hours apart, so the two schools are doing heavy recruiting in the same geographic area. The fight for Jadeveon Clowney became quite bitter when both Mark Richt and Steve Spurrier were trying to convince the then number one prospect to come to their school.
Spurrier himself is a factor, but then again, he’s not going to be there forever, and fans are more accustomed to hating him for his ties to the Florida Gators.
The South Carolina fans are a factor too. They can be a testy bunch, and who can blame them? They’re still fighting for respectability in a conference loaded with teams that have been winning national championships since the dawn of football, and honestly, they’re still looking for a conference rival (Carolina’s biggest rival is in-state and ACC school, Clemson).
So despite all these things put together, there just isn’t a way that you can mention South Carolina in the same breath with Florida, Auburn or Georgia Tech in terms of Georgia rivalries.
Maybe if the Gamecocks continue their winning ways over the next couple of decades and carry on with the tradition of playing Georgia tough early in the season – but for now, they’ll just be a team that the Bulldog Nation turns their attention to for a week, and then goes about the business of hating the teams that matter.