Gamecocks 2 difficult wins from SEC title game
South Carolina's path to its first Southeastern Conference title game couldn't be much clearer - or more difficult.
Should the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2 SEC) beat No. 17 Arkansas and Florida the next two weeks, they would represent the SEC Eastern Division at the Georgia Dome. Of course, that would mean South Carolina defeating the league's top passer in the Razorbacks Ryan Mallett and winning at Florida, something it has never done.
''Yeah, we know what's out there,'' Spurrier said Sunday. ''We know exactly what's out there.''
That doesn't mean Spurrier's wasting too much time thinking about it.
He understands the Gamecocks, who dropped a spot to No. 18 despite beating Tennessee 38-24 on Saturday, are the SEC East's only two-loss team. Spurrier also knows how unlikely it is that the Gators, right behind at 3-3 in the SEC, will fall at Vanderbilt next week meaning South Carolina will likely head to Gainesville for a showdown at The Swamp.
Spurrier, the former Florida Heisman Trophy winner, acknowledged a win by bitter rival Georgia instead of the Gators, who pulled out a 34-31 OT victory, would've helped South Carolina.
Instead, Spurrier's taking the Gamecocks title chances one step at a time.
''That's for next week,'' Spurrier said, brushing aside SEC title game talk.
The Gamecocks have a pass defense to shore up before Arkansas comes to Williams-Brice Stadium next Saturday night.
South Carolina has lost three of its past four to Arkansas, the lone win in that stretch coming at home two years ago. And the Gamecocks come in with the SEC's worst pass defense, something evident throughout its victory over Tennessee.
The Gamecocks gave up 312 yards through the air, most when backup quarterback Tyler Bray took over for the Vols in the second half. Bray, despite getting sacked three times, had two passes of 60-plus yards to Denarius Moore and continually found soft spots in South Carolina's secondary.
It was the third time in four games South Carolina permitted opponents 300 or more yards passing.
Spurrier can only imagine Mallett and the Razorbacks eagerness to face that.
''They have got to be licking their chops when they see tape of our last several games,'' Spurrier said.
Making things more difficult is the apparent serious shoulder injury of starting cornerback Chris Culliver. Spurrier said the senior would be out for Arkansas and perhaps longer than that.
The breakdown in the South Carolina's pass defense allowed Tennessee to rally for a 24-all tie after trailing 24-10 early in the third quarter. Gamecocks receiver Alshon Jeffery and running back Marcus Lattimore took the game back for South Carolina.
Jeffery had a 70-yard catch and run touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the Gamecocks ahead for good. Lattimore rushed for a career high 184 yards and pounded Tennessee on the ground in the final period, leading to a clinching TD sneak by quarterback Stephen Garcia.
Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said the worst that should've happened on Jeffery's TD catch was ''a first down for 12 yards, but that's what great players do. That's what impact, game-changing players do.''
The Vols may have found impact players of their own in Bray and Moore, who had a career high 228 yards receiving.
Still, Tennessee is 0-5 in the SEC for the first time since 1977.
This time, it's South Carolina seeking the league's biggest prize.
Spurrier wants the Gamecocks concentrating on continuing a perfect run at home. South Carolina is 5-0 at Williams-Brice Stadium with wins over Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
''This will be a big challenge to see if we can beat Arkansas,'' Spurrier said.