Spurrier: No. 6 Gamecocks better than Kentucky
Coach Steve Spurrier is saying something this week he hasn't said often at South Carolina - his team is better than its Southeastern Conference opponent.
And the ingredients do seem to be in place for a rout for No. 6 South Carolina.
The Wildcats don't appear any better than the team that South Carolina beat 54-3 last season, marking the only time the Gamecocks have scored 50 points on an SEC opponent in Spurrier's eight years at the school.
''I think we are better than them,'' Spurrier said. "But if we don't play better than them, they can certainly beat us.''
The admission is a milestone of sorts for Spurrier, who has slowly built South Carolina from a middle of the SEC team that might occasionally pull a surprise or lose to someone it should beat into a contender for the league title.
The Gamecocks have won 15 of their past 17 games, an unprecedented streak in team history. A win Saturday over the Wildcats will match South Carolina's longest ever win streak at nine games. And the Gamecocks have been ranked higher just once, rising to No. 2 after winning their first nine games in 1984.
The injury problems that plagued South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw appear to be over. His shoulder appears to be fine, evidenced by his 20 straight competitions to finish last week's 31-10 win over Missouri.
Shaw needs just five completions to start Saturday's game to pass former Tennessee QB Tee Martin's SEC record of 25 competitions. The NCAA record is 36 completions by East Carolina's Dominique Davis.
Spurrier said his assistants let him know Shaw was just three competitions away from Martin's single-game SEC record, but he decided not to take any chances in the fourth quarter,
''Obviously the guys caught everything, too, but Connor throws a catchable ball, he really does. He doesn't throw a hard ball to catch,'' Spurrier said.
After Kentucky on Saturday, the schedule gets much harder for the Gamecocks, with No. 5 Georgia, No. 3 LSU and No. 11 Florida in the first three weeks of October.
''We know that the meat of the schedule is down the road, but this is a game this week that's one of 12, and we're going to try to play our best,'' Spurrier said.
If anything brought Spurrier's Florida swagger back at South Carolina, it was the 51-point win over Kentucky in 2011. The Gamecocks gained 639 yards, the best output ever under Spurrier. The coach never stopped, scoring 21 points in the fourth quarter, including a 10-play drive at the end of the game that had three passes and finished with an 8-yard touchdown scramble by backup quarterback Dylan Thompson with nine seconds to go.
Spurrier suggested his team could have scored 70 or 80, then dropped in one of his patented backhanded compliments, delivered with a grin.
''Kentucky has a heck of a punter,'' he said.
Wildcats coach Joker Phillips was asked about that comment this week. He laughed, saying Kentucky still has a good punter and also said there was no need to put the comment on a bulletin board to fire up his players.
''Steve's going to say things like that. If I put everything that Steve said up there, we wouldn't have any space on our board,'' Phillips said.
And if Kentucky needs any inspiration, it should come from two years ago, when the Wildcat team beat a Spurrier team for the only time in the Head Ball Coach's career. South Carolina led 28-10 at halftime in 2010, but Gamecocks running back Marcus Lattimore missed the second half with an injured ankle and Kentucky scored three touchdowns in the final two quarters to win 31-28. The loss stung even more because it came the week after South Carolina beat No. 1 Alabama.
''We were ready to play, but they completely out-played us the second half, out-coached us completely the second half. We ended up losing the game,'' Spurrier said Tuesday. ''But that game's history, just as our game with them last year is history, and the team that plays the best this week has the best chance of being the winner.''