Gamecocks focused on Gators, not SEC East
Published: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 10:50 p.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier knows his team's chances of playing for the Southeastern Conference title depend on what happens in a game that should finish before the No. 11 Gamecocks kick off Saturday against Florida.
But Spurrier doesn't plan to pay much attention to game between No. 25 Georgia and seventh-ranked Auburn.
Instead, he wants his team to focus on beating the Gators for the third time in four years.
“No interest at all in that game. We have no control over it,” Spurrier said. “We're just going to talk about trying to play our best this week. Whatever happens within the division happens.”
Both Georgia and Missouri have to lose one more SEC game for the Gamecocks to win the SEC East. But the Gamecocks are still in a pretty good position. While the Bulldogs get an Auburn team with just one SEC loss, Missouri has a bye before facing Mississippi and No. 10 Texas A&M to end its season.
But a loss to the Gators would end just about any hopes of making to Atlanta for the SEC title game for just the second time in school history.
“We can't win it this week, but we can lose it this week,” offensive lineman Ronald Patrick said.
Florida (4-5, 3-4 SEC) has dominated South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) since the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1992. But South Carolina broke a 14-game losing streak against the Gators in 2005 and won two in a row before Florida's 44-11 win last season in a bizarre game.
The Gamecocks outgained the Gators 191 yards to 183 yards, but three fumbles and an interception doomed South Carolina. It was similar to Florida's 34-17 loss last week to Vanderbilt, where the Gators outgained the Commodores, but turned the ball over four times.
“They clobbered us last year,” Spurrier said. “We fumbled it all over the place and got beat probably about as badly as we have in the last two or three years around here.”
But that Florida team was ranked third in the country and was 6-0. This year's Gators are 4-5 and in danger of their first losing season since 1979. Florida has the worst offense in the SEC at 336 yards a game, but the best defense, allowing just under 279 yards a game.
“Our guys have confidence. We just need to put them in situations to be successful,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said,
What has hurt Florida the most is injuries. The Gators have lost 10 players, including six starters, to season-ending injuries.
“We need to learn to overcome our circumstances,” Muschamp said.
South Carolina has missed just one starter, center Cody Waldrop, and he may be back on the field Saturday, Spurrier said.
“Injury-wise and health-wise for our team, we're probably as healthy as about any team in the country, I guess. We've been very fortunate there,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks were off last week, and Spurrier believes it helped a lot of players, especially starting quarterback Connor Shaw. The senior played the last two games in a knee brace, limiting his mobility. He was held to negative yards rushing in both games, something that has happened just three other times in the 39 games he played at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks converted just one of 11 third downs in a 34-16 win over Mississippi State and Spurrier said Shaw's knee was part of the problem.
“He'd take off and run for them. We didn't do that any in the last game,” Spurrier said.
South Carolina can also set a school record Saturday by winning its 16th straight home game. The Gamecocks' streak is also the longest in the country. Spurrier is proud of the mark, but said he also realizes schedules have something to do with the streak. South Carolina has played just two Top 25 teams at home during that run.
Spurrier said, “Our schedule has favored us pretty well — some of the top teams we've played recently, like last year, we were on the road against LSU and Florida.”