ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The last time Georgia faced South Carolina, Will Muschamp had just been fired as the Gamecocks' coach.
He didn't take long to land a new gig.
Muschamp is now part of Kirby Smart's staff at No. 2 Georgia (2-0), which hosts South Carolina (2-0) on Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
Muschamp coached at South Carolina for almost five years and recruited the vast majority of players on the Gamecocks' roster.
But Smart shrugged off any suggestion that Muschamp can provide a lot of valuable inside information.
“It’s not that big a deal," Smart said. “He’s not in their meetings, he doesn’t know their game plan.”
Muschamp never had much success as a head coach in the SEC, going 28-21 at Florida before he was fired in 2014 and struggling to a 28-30 mark at South Carolina, where he was ousted after the seventh game of the 2020 season.
He quickly found a new job at Georgia, his alma mater. Muschamp initially came aboard as a defensive analyst and was promoted to a full-time job as special teams coordinator in late July.
In an interesting twist, perhaps his biggest victory as a head coach came the last time South Carolina visited Sanford Stadium in 2019.
A huge underdog, the Gamecocks stunned the third-ranked Bulldogs 20-17 in double overtime — a game that appeared to signal Muschamp finally had his program headed in the right direction.
Instead, he didn't even make it to the next meeting against the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks managed only one victory in their last six games of 2019, and Muschamp was fired after they started 2020 with a 2-5 mark.
Former Georgia quarterback and assistant Mike Bobo was South Carolina's interim coach when they faced Georgia last November. The Bulldogs got their revenge with a 45-16 victory.
New Gamecocks Shane Beamer isn’t thinking about any reunions. He’s more concerned about facing a group he calls “the most talented football team in the history of Georgia football.”
“That’s not coach-speak,” Beamer said. “The depth they have, the size, the physicality, the speed.”
Muschamp will get a chance to say hello to his former players before and after Saturday's game.
Otherwise, it's all business for both teams.
“I’ll be excited to see him after the game,” South Carolina receiver Dakereon Joyner said.
Some other things to watch for when the Bulldogs host the Gamecocks:
Georgia quarterback JT Daniels didn't play in last week's 56-7 victory over UAB because of an oblique injury.
Stetson Bennett got the start and turned in a dazzling performance, completing 10 of 12 passes for 288 yards and a school record-tying five touchdowns.
Daniels is expected to reclaim the starting job if healthy. Bennett, for his part, was dealing with a lower-back issue.
“JT feels much better,” Smart said. “I don’t know if he’s 100%, but he’s certainly getting closer to that.”
Zeb Noland was supposed to be a graduate assistant at South Carolina. Instead, he started the first two games at quarterback, leading the Gamecocks to victories over Eastern Illinois and East Carolina.
Noland filled in for Luke Doty, who is recovering from a foot sprain sustained in practice last month. Beamer did not say who will start against Georgia.
When Noland began discussing with Beamer the possibility of switching from staffer to player, one appealing aspect was the chance to play in front of a hometown crowd.
Noland went to high school in nearby Watkinsville.
“One of the things that he did mention was how cool it would be to go back to play at Sanford Stadium in the town he went to high school in and his family lives in,” Beamer said.
Smart is good friends with Noland’s father.
“This guy was a GA, and he jumped in and played quarterback, played winning football, and made good decisions,” Smart said. “It’s got to be very cool for him."
With a dynamic front seven filled with players who are likely to become first-round NFL draft picks, Georgia's defense has yet to give up a touchdown.
The Bulldogs allowed only a field goal to Clemson in a 10-3 victory to open the season. Last week, UAB's lone score came on an interception return for a TD.
In fact, Georgia's defense has outscored its opponents, producing a pair of pick-six touchdowns in the first two games.
RUN, DAWG, RUN
Georgia is looking for more explosive plays out of its running game.
The Bulldogs have yet to break a run longer than 22 yards. Last week against UAB, their biggest run was a 20-yard scramble by Bennett.
“We always have a sense of urgency about that," offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer said. "We really want to get those things corrected and get back to being the team that we want.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 and his work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paulnewberry
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25