The Gamecocks are heading into Sanford Stadium today coming off a lackluster 28-14 win over Louisiana-Lafayette.
“Didn’t play extremely well a lot of the game, but we did have some good things going,” Spurrier said, “and hopefully we can improve a lot if we’re going to have a decent year or a big year or whatever kind of year we can have.”
South Carolina’s third-year coach came into the season saying this was the first time in his tenure the Gamecocks had a realistic shot of winning the SEC championship. The first two years he was frank in his assessment that the program was in no shape to compete for titles.
The No. 11 Bulldogs (1-0), who host the Gamecocks at 5:45 p.m. in a game televised by ESPN2, have been a road block for South Carolina’s title hopes since before Spurrier took over.
“If we’re going to compete for the division, we obviously need to start beating them someday,” he said. “Hopefully, this year, and if not, we’ll try and do it next year.”
The Gamecocks (1-0) haven’t beaten the Bulldogs since 2001. A losing streak to the Bulldogs is a rare thing for Spurrier, who was 11-1 against Georgia when he coached Florida. He now finds himself envying the Bulldogs program.
“They’ve got a winning tradition there, and it repeats,” Spurrier said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re freshmen, sophomores or whatever, when they come to Georgia, they are expected to play at an extremely fast pace and really well. We’re trying to get to that level.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt played things differently when he took the charge of the Bulldogs’ program in 2001, never speculating on how far his team could go in the first year.
“I had never coached in this league so I only knew what I read about or saw on TV,” he said. “I didn’t really know what I was up against. I didn’t know how our talent base compared with everybody else’s talent base, but I never wanted to put a limit on how far we could go.”
Richt didn’t want any of his 2001 seniors thinking he had given up on their season, he said, but he soon came to believe that he didn’t need to bluff anybody to tell his team he thought it had a chance to compete.
“Not long into the first season, I realized, we’ve got just as good a chance to win this league as anybody. We were in every game,” he said. “We just said, ‘Let’s just tighten down the screws a little bit, win these close game and we’ll be a champion.’”
Georgia lost four games in 2001 by a combined 28 points and then went 13-1 and won the 2002 SEC championship.
“I don’t believe I would have taken the job at Georgia if I didn’t believe they could win a conference and national championship,” Richt said.