A rivalry can be played anywhere on a schedule, on campus or a neutral site. Teams can be located within miles or not in the same time zone. All of that is optional.
What is required is depth of feeling. Georgia-South Carolina has entered that realm.
The neighbors square off on Saturday in Columbia, S.C., in the first major East Division showdown.
The Bulldogs had last week off after winning impressively over Clemson, and the Gamecocks rebounded from their bewildering loss to Texas A&M in the opener to defeat East Carolina last week.
South Carolina may feel more of a burden, carrying a league loss, but both sides will sense something extra when the game kicks off.
“It’s been an important game since the day I got here,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who arrived in 2001. “What’s happened is because both of our teams of late have been more highly ranked, it’s become more relevant on a national level.”
Steve Spurrier arrived in 2005 and led the Gamecocks to their lone division championship in 2010. They’ve been 6-2 in league play each of the last three years. Until Missouri won the East last season, Georgia and South Carolina had won the last three division titles.
Spurrier has seen the game grow in importance and Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference repeated a line he’s used in past years to describe the series: “We haven’t beaten anybody enough to have more rivals (besides Clemson).”
Maybe it’s as much a Spurrier-Georgia rivalry as anything. He tormented the Bulldogs as Florida’s coach from 1990-2001, going 11-1.
At South Carolina, he’s 4-5 against the Dawgs. But Spurrier is 4-2 since 2007, and that’s the best six-year stretch for the Gamecocks against Georgia in the 66-game series.
As for the game, running back is the place to start. Georgia’s Todd Gurley set the school’s total yards record with 293 against Clemson. That included a kickoff return for a score.
South Carolina’s Mike Davis joined Gurley on the coaches’ preseason All-SEC team, had 101 yards against East Carolina last week and went for 149 against Georgia last season.
Ranking the SEC
Team (previous rank)
1. Georgia (1)
at South Carolina
Victory would give Dawgs huge division boost
2. Texas A&M (2)
Should be another breeze for Aggies
3. Alabama (3)
Tide made big strides from first to second game
4. Auburn (4)
Trip to Kansas State on the horizon
5. LSU (5)
Fournette’s Heisman pose ticked off Miles
6. Mississippi (6)
Bo Wallace was much better vs. Vandy
7. Missouri (7)
Knights lost heart-breaker to Penn State in opener
8. Florida (11)
Driskell, offense soared in opener
9. Mississippi State (9)
at South Alabama
Pass defense let down vs. UAB
10. South Carolina (8)
Mike Davis got untracked vs. East Carolina
11. Tennessee (10)
Vols first roadie after 2-0 vs. solid mid-majors
12. Kentucky (12)
2-0 Wildcats off to best start since 2011
13. Arkansas (13)
at Texas Tech
Ended 10-game skid with 73-3 victory
14. Vanderbilt (14)
Commodores looked lost in first two games