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September 9, 2010

Georgia Natives Looking Forward to Saturday

The first salvo was fired before Georgia ever stepped on the field for its first game.

"I've been looking forward to this game, to be honest," South Carolina backup quarterback Connor Shaw said after the Gamecocks beat Southern Miss 41-13 last week. "I've never really had a passion for Georgia, and I can't wait till next week."

Next week is here.

USC, thanks to its Thursday-night opener, had a couple of extra days to think about their next opponent, and what a win over it might do. The Bulldogs had to dispatch Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday, a game that many Gamecocks were able to watch, before turning their focus to USC.

Yet another border war in what's become an intriguing series. The winner usually goes on to have the better season, and there's no question that the winner will be in much better shape to talk about a division championship.

Shaw made his feelings clear already. The native of Flowery Branch, Ga., less than 50 miles from Athens and Georgia's campus, said he never grew up thinking red and black were holy.

It may have helped that his older brother, Jaybo Shaw, used to play at Georgia Tech and is now at Georgia Southern. That's a good plot-pointed map of Georgia without ever hitting the state university.

USC coach Steve Spurrier, perhaps mindful of more locker-room bulletin-board material for the Bulldogs, denied five Georgia natives on his team from talking to the media on Wednesday, but one slipped through on Monday. Defensive end Chaz Sutton, a Savannah native, spoke about his view on his home state's flagship university.

"I never was a Georgia fan," Sutton said. "I was more, kind of like a Miami fan when they were in their prime."

Growing up around 260 miles away from Athens might have helped that. Although Miami is a straight shot down I-95 from Savannah, Athens is obviously much, much closer. It didn't matter to Sutton, who took a couple of unofficial visits to Georgia while being recruited but said he never went to a game.

He became the unofficial team spokesman, saying what some of his Georgia-bred teammates have been saying. "This is a big rivalry for the team, it's a big rivalry for the school, everybody wants this game," Sutton said. "Everybody wants to beat the 'Dogs."

USC counts 16 Georgia natives on its roster. Players that should see the field on Saturday include Shaw, Sutton, Terrence Campbell, Rokevious Watkins, Josh Dickerson, Kenny Miles and Ladi Ajiboye. Two others, DeMario Bennett and DeAngelo Smith, could also be shuttled into the game.

The Bulldogs only have four Palmetto State natives on their roster, and one, A.J. Green, won't be playing due to suspension. That leaves Kwame Geathers (Georgetown), Jakar Hamilton (Edgefield) and Charles White, a Columbia native who played at Blythewood High School.

USC has been labeled an early favorite, but with the three-point home-field advantage. The Gamecocks are hoping to make the home field count, so they can keep their dream alive.

A Georgia win won't end it, but it will cast a red and black cloud over the pillow.

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