Revenge or rivalry, Georgia football is plenty motivated heading into South Carolina game

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Georgia head coach Kirby Smart leaves the field after losing 20-17 in double overtime to South Carolina in an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Kirby Smart doesn’t think South Carolina’s shock victory the last time the Gamecocks made the trip to Athens will play all that big a factor on Saturday.

He reiterated that the 2019 home defeat was more about what Georgia did to itself than anything South Carolina did when it pulled out a 20-17 win in overtime.

The Georgia head coach has also downplayed the impact of having Will Muschamp on staff. Sure, the former South Carolina head coach knows some of the personnel on the Gamecocks, but he’s no expert on the new schemes being employed by current South Carolina coach Shane Beamer.

“He just might know more about them in terms of what strengths and weaknesses there are,” Smart said. “So, we always do personnel with somebody who knows teams, and we get the personnel information, but at the end of the day, I think some of these kids can improve, get better, and they’re year older. You don’t always know exactly what they’re like.”

Related: Georgia football an unfinished product, but good enough for No. 1 right now

As Georgia enters this Saturday as a massive favorite, the Bulldogs aren’t too concerned about the recent shared history between the two programs. The two schools are in very different stages of program building.

South Carolina is trying to establish its own culture in the first year under Beamer. The Gamecocks have won their first two games of the season, beating Eastern Illinois and East Carolina in the process.

But the Gamecocks are hoping to just scratch out a bowl game this year while implementing building blocks for a stronger future.

Georgia is contending for championships, as the Bulldogs currently rank as the No. 2 team in the country with a win over No. 6 Clemson to start the 2021 season. Georgia smacked UAB 56-7 in Athens last week.

“It’s always going to be about what we do and how we execute,” Smart said. “We’re trying to do that at the highest level, and whatever we can do this week in practice to be able to execute at a high level, that’s what I want to focus on.”

Of course, you could’ve said the same thing during the 2019 season when Georgia entered the South Carolina contest as the No. 3 team in the country.

Many of the key faces though for Georgia have changed since then. The Bulldogs have a new offensive coordinator in Todd Monken and quarterback in JT Daniels.

As for the Georgia defense — which might just be the best in the country — many of its current key players were lightly used freshmen and sophomores back in 2019.

“That is in the past, but it still lingers in the air,” junior defensive end Travon Walker said. “I was on the team at the time and we don’t want anything like that to happen again.

“We just want to go out there and play our best ball.”

If there is a similarity between the two teams at this point in time, it comes at the quarterback position. Both have injury questions to the presumed starter, as Daniels is recovering from an oblique injury. South Carolina’s Luke Doty is coming back from a foot injury. In the event he’s unable to play, the Gamecocks will go with Zeb Noland.

Related: Stetson Bennett dealing with strained back, JT Daniels ‘pushing back’ from injury

Georgia enters the game as a 31-point favorite against South Carolina. That point spread speaks to the gulf in talent between the two teams.

And while the talent gap might be as wide as I-20, Georgia isn’t going to take its eye off the ball against the Gamecocks. It isn’t though because of the Muschamp factor or some misguided sense of revenge following the 2019 loss.

South Carolina has Georgia’s full attention because the Bulldogs know they have to play to a championship standard week-in and week-out. At the end of the day, that is the biggest motivating factor for these Bulldogs.

Revenge or Rivalry: Georgia football giving South Carolina its full attention

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