Starting QBs ready to go for Gamecocks, Gators

South Carolina’s Connor Shaw is feeling better, as is Florida’s

John Brantley. It’s time to play football.

Fans on both sides have spent much of the week worrying about

their banged-up quarterbacks, but both are expected to start

Saturday when No. 15 South Carolina (7-2, 5-2) and Florida (5-4,

3-4) close out Southeastern Conference play at Williams-Brice


The status of Shaw and Brantley seemed very much in doubt after

last weekend.

Shaw, a sophomore, sustained a concussion in a 44-28 loss to

Arkansas, but was cleared by doctors to practice this week and

play. Brantley missed two games earlier this season with a badly

sprained right ankle and briefly lost feeling in his throwing hand

after a fourth-quarter hit between his shoulder and elbow in the

Gators’ 26-21 win over Vanderbilt.

Brantley, a senior, was back at practice Tuesday and has

continued to prepare for this weekend’s contest.

”Having John back makes us that sort of offense that we want to

be,” first-year Florida coach Will Muschamp said. ”That’s where

we’re headed and that’s what we’re looking forward to displaying

there in Columbia.”

If so, the Gators might be tough to slow down. South Carolina’s

defense looked as bad as it had all season at Arkansas, torched for

435 yards. It was just the second time this season the Gamecocks

have allowed an opponent more than 400 yards.

South Carolina had kept itself in charge of the SEC Eastern

Division chase with a combination of strong defense and just enough

offense to win tight games at Mississippi State and Tennessee. That

formula fell apart against the Razorbacks, though Shaw’s second

rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter drew the Gamecocks

within 30-28.

Despite the loss, South Carolina still has a chance to return to

the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship game. It must defeat

Florida – something it’s done just twice in 19 meetings since

joining the SEC – and then hope Georgia loses to Auburn or Kentucky

down the stretch.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier recognizes the team he’d put

together at the start of the season bears little resemblance to the

one taking the field on Saturday.

”Actually, when you look at the way our team has played this

year, you’ve got to say, `Hey, those guys are 7-2 and they’re in

position to really achieve some stuff this year,”’ Spurrier said.

”We’ve got to play one of our best games, get some fire and


Losing Shaw would’ve taken some of that away even before

kickoff. The sophomore took over for fifth-year senior Stephen

Garcia last month, and then was Spurrier’s lone experienced option

once Garcia was dismissed from the program.

The Gamecocks’ offense took another big hit at Mississippi State

when tailback Marcus Lattimore, who led the SEC in rushing for much

of the year, was lost with a knee injury. Lattimore is awaiting


Freshman Brandon Wilds looked like the answer when he rushed for

137 yards against Tennessee two games ago. But Wilds struggled –

along with the rest of the offense – and had just 21 yards in the

Arkansas loss.

”We could definitely get a little better,” receivers coach

Steve Spurrier Jr. said. ”But we’re 7-2 and trying to be 8-2 this


History is not on South Carolina’s side. The Gamecocks clinched

the SEC East a year ago down at The Swamp, a satisfying 36-14 romp

that seemed to signal South Carolina’s rise in the SEC. But the

Gamecocks’ only back-to-back wins in the series came in 1936 and


And now, it looks as though Florida’s rounding into offensive


The Gators broke a four-game losing streak with the Vanderbilt

win and hope to qualify for a bowl game by defeating the Gamecocks.

Up next is Furman, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent,

before the season finale with Florida State.

Along with Brantley, the Gators’ offense is also expecting Chris

Rainey to be back after missing last week’s game with an ankle

problem. Rainey and Jeff Demps make up one of the SEC’s top rushing

combinations, the two pairing up for more than 1,000 yards this


A strong finish could be just what the Gators need for Muschamp

to bring them back to the top of the SEC East.

”If we do win out I’ll feel like it’s a very successful

season,” receiver Andre Debose said.

AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to

this report.