Columbia is preparing for a Top 10 rumble tonight as one of the most highly-anticipated games in the Georgia-South Carolina series takes to the field of Williams-Brice Stadium. Last night, though, fans from both schools got together across the state line in Augusta for the 19th annual Border Bash.
The event brought fans from both schools to Augusta Common to raise money for local children’s charities and organizations. In addition to food and live entertainment, the event featured cheerleaders from the University of South Carolina and the University of Georgia, as well as mascots Cocky and Hairy Dawg.
Chris Fulmer, president of the Aiken chapter of the Gamecock Club, went to last year’s event and decided to go again this year after the president of the Augusta Gamecock Club gave him VIP tickets.
“It’s a great event,” he said. “They do a nice job with it, and they raise a lot of money for those charities, which is the most important thing.”
Today’s game is historic, as it’s the first time both schools have played while ranked in the Top 10 – Georgia at No. 5 and South Carolina at No. 6. Additionally, the Bulldogs have lost the last two match-ups to their border rival; however, they’ve never lost to the Gamecocks three years in a row.
Georgia leads the series with a record of 46-16-2.
“It’s gotten to be a better rivalry in the last 10 years,” said Denny Michaelis, a Georgia fan from Aiken. “It’s really heated up, and part of that has to do with Spurrier coming.”
Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier has his own history with the Bulldogs that dates back to before he set foot in Columbia in 2005. He was the head coach for Georgia’s other border rival, the Florida Gators, from 1990 to 2001.
“The Georgia people hate Steve Spurrier because he was like, 11-1 (against Georgia) when he was at Florida,” Fulmer said. “But he used to beat the mess out of us. Half the Carolina fans didn’t think of him before he came to Carolina.”
Fulmer said the rivalry has also intensified following South Carolina’s ascension to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in 2010. Today’s match-up is “one of the best of all time,” he said.
“For hype, this might be the most hyped one ever,” he said. “There’s a lot of actors in there that make it the No. 1. Sometimes these big games don’t pan out, but I think this will pan out. This is gonna be a barn burner.”
Adding to the hype will be ESPN “College GameDay,” which will be filming live from Columbia.
Michaelis said the two fan bases have still managed to keep their discourse civil.
“I don’t talk trash, and neither do my buddies,” he said. “We just talk about the players, coaching – more of an analytical review.”
Michaelis has been a Georgia fan since 1975, when he moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and went to his first Georgia-Florida game.
“I just observed to see which group of fans I liked the best, and I walked away a Georgia fan,” he said.
For Fulmer, the best part of Friday’s festivities is the two fan bases uniting for a common cause.
“You’ve got the game where you can let loose a little more,” he said, “but using all the energy from these two great colleges and raise money for a great charity, that’s a big deal.”
So, who will win tonight’s battle of the borders?
“Obviously, I would never publicly predict the Gamecocks to lose,” Fulmer said, adding his prediction of a 31-27 Gamecock victory.
Michaelis didn’t offer a score but said the Bulldogs have what it takes to head back to the Peach State with a victory.
“We’ve got more talent,” he said. “We definitely have a better quarterback than Carolina, and we have more experience. … Our defense just needs to come to the dance.”
“College GameDay” will air at 9 a.m. on ESPNU and at 10 a.m. on ESPN. The game will be televised on ESPN at 7 p.m.