SEC: 2012 Capital One Bowl

Georgia bowl X factor

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
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We're taking a look at Georgia's X factor for the Bulldogs' matchup with Nebraska in today's Capital One Bowl:

X FACTOR

Kwame Geathers, Jr., NG: With big man John Jenkins academically ineligible for today's game, Geathers steps in to try and clog the middle of Georgia's line against a very, very good running team. Nebraska led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally with 254.5 rushing yards per game. The Huskers are averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and run the ball almost 50 times a game. Georgia has to stop Nebraska's ground game or it's going to be a long day for the Bulldogs' defense.

Georgia enters the game with one of the SEC's worst rushing defenses, as the Bulldogs surrendered 177.8 yards on the ground per game. That was good enough for 12th in the SEC. Georgia is fresh off giving up 350 rushing yards to Alabama in the SEC championship and can't afford to get sloppy again up front because this defense will just wear down as the game goes on. That means Geathers, who has five tackles for loss on the year, has to get push up front to disrupt Nebraska's elite running game. Nebraska running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez combined for 2,597 rushing yards this season, so getting some pressure up the middle and clogging things up front will be key for Georgia's defense, as it looks to slow down the Huskers. Geathers isn't as wide as Jenkins, but he's taller and has a ton of strength. If he can slow plays up the middle, Georgia's defense should tire out like it did against Alabama.

Video: Capital One Bowl preview

December, 12, 2012
12/12/12
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Georgia and Nebraska square off in a top-16 matchup between the Big Ten and SEC (Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET -- ABC).

Top SEC bowl performers

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
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The SEC still has three bowl teams left, but we're going to take a look at some players who have already seen their seasons come to an end.

It was a fun weekend of football and a good weekend for the SEC. The conference went 4-2, with Georgia and Vanderbilt being the only teams to come up short.

With those games came some pretty good performances from players.

Here are some top performers:
  • Vick Ballard, RB, Mississippi State: He saved one of his best performances for last, as he rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries. His touchdowns went for 60 and 72 yards.
  • Archibald Barnes, LB, Vanderbilt: He was all over the field for the Commodores, leading the Liberty Bowl with 10 total tackles. He also blocked a field goal in the fourth quarter that gave Vandy some life late.
  • Emory Blake, WR, Auburn: Blake made his day in the Georgia Dome look easy as he caught six passes for 108 yards in the win over Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
  • Jon Bostic, LB, Florida: He was one of the most active players on defense this past weekend, recording eight tackles, including four for loss.
  • Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia: In his final game as a Bulldog, Boykin found a way to put points on the board three different ways in the Outback Bowl. First, he forced a safety when he stuffed Michigan State's Keshawn Martin on the Spartans' first offensive play. He then returned a punt 92 yards for a touchdown and caught a 13-yard touchdown late. His punt return was the longest play in Outback Bowl history.
  • Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: The true freshman put a stamp on his first season by recording two sacks for a loss of 13 yards. He finished the Capital One Bowl with four total tackles.
  • Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State: Cox made sure he went out with a blast in the Music City Bowl, recording seven tackles, with two coming for loss, had a sack and blocked a field goal.
  • Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: He grabbed eight tackles, including one for loss, and grabbed two interceptions. With his picks, Hayward tied for first in career interceptions at Vanderbilt.
  • Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina: If not for his ejection, Jeffery's numbers would have been much better. Still, he caught just four passes for a game-high 148 yards. He snagged Connor Shaw's Hail Mary touchdown pass at the end of the first half and had a 78-yard reception.
  • Tavarres King, WR, Georgia: King was almost one of the heroes for Georgia, catching six passes for a career-high 205 yards and had an 80-yard touchdown reception, which was also a career long. Before Boykin's punt return, King's play stood as the longest play in Outback Bowl history.
  • Onterio McCalebb, RB, Auburn: Taking over as Auburn's lead back in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, McCalebb had a game-high 109 rushing yards, including a long of 60 yards. He also recorded a 3-yard touchdown run and caught two passes for 53 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown.
  • Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia: He was all over the field for the Bulldogs, recording an Outback Bowl-high 13 tackles, including two for loss, broke up two passes and had a sack.
  • Chris Rainey, RB, Florida: Rainey ended his Florida career with a great showing against Ohio State in the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl. He led Florida with 71 rushing yards, had 31 receiving yards and blocked a punt that was scooped up and run in for a touchdown by linebacker Graham Stewart.
  • Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina: Shaw didn't let the big stage bother him, as he passed for 230 yards and two touchdowns, including a nifty Hail Mary to end the first half. He also carried the ball for 42 yards and another touchdown.

Video: Jeffery named Capital One MVP

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
5:32
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Capital One Bowl MVP Alshon Jeffrey talks about South Carolina's win over Nebraska.

South Carolina stopped a three-game losing streak in bowl games Monday with a 30-13 victory against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

Here’s an instant analysis from the game:

How the game was won: South Carolina’s defense clamped down in the second half. In fact, Nebraska went scoreless the last three quarters after putting up 13 points in the first quarter. South Carolina was able to run it just enough (121 yards) to keep the Nebraska defense honest, and sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw kept the Huskers off balance with his ability to run. The Gamecocks also didn't turn it over, while the Huskers had two turnovers.

Turning point: The Gamecocks looked like they had mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, leaving Shaw with just one play. He heaved it toward the end zone, and the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Alshon Jeffery went up over everybody to catch it and lunge across the goal line for a 51-yard Hail Mary touchdown with no time remaining in the first half. So instead of going into the locker room trailing 13-9, the Gamecocks went in with a 16-13 lead and all the momentum.

Turning point II: The Huskers took the second-half kickoff and drove the ball down to the Gamecocks’ 8-yard line and had it first-and-goal. A motion penalty and a couple of big plays by South Carolina’s defense forced Nebraska to kick a field goal, and Brett Maher’s 35-yard attempt was no good.

Player of the game: Shaw finished 11-of-17 for 230 yards passing with a pair of touchdown passes, and he also rushed for 42 yards and a touchdown.

Unsung hero: Despite being kicked out of the game in the third quarter for fighting with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Jeffery caught four passes for 148 yards, including the 51-yard touchdown pass right before the half, in what was likely his final game in a South Carolina uniform. He’s expected to enter the NFL draft.

Stat of the game: Nebraska was held to minus-15 yards in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game II: South Carolina sacked Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez six times, and four of those sacks came in the fourth quarter.

Record performance: Jeffery had his 12th 100-yard receiving game, breaking the South Carolina school record. He also caught his 23rd career touchdown pass, tying Sidney Rice’s school record.

What it means: South Carolina (11-2) won 11 games in a season for the first time in school history and will likely be a top 10 or top 15 team nationally to start next season. Nebraska (9-4) ended the season by losing three of its last five games. It was also the Huskers’ second straight bowl loss.

Gamecocks seniors seeking bowl win

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
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When Antonio Allen looks back at his South Carolina career, he can’t help but feel that it was almost perfect.

Almost.

Though South Carolina has undergone a tremendous transition since the senior safety stepped on campus, he has yet to savor the sweet taste of a bowl victory.

He has hoisted no trophies with his teammates at the end of the season, and until he does, his South Carolina career will feel incomplete.

Getting a win Monday against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl would end a three-game losing streak in bowl games for the Gamecocks and it would also give the program its first 11-win season.

[+] EnlargeAntonio Allen
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireAntonio Allen and the Gamecocks are hoping to secure the program's first 11-win season.
“It would be great to get that 11th win because no one has ever done it in South Carolina history. We want to be the first to make history,” Allen said.

South Carolina didn’t exactly have a rich tradition before Steve Spurrier arrived. Spurrier has done wonders for the program, but this group of seniors has also been a major factor in elevating South Carolina to a program that made it to its first SEC championship game in 2010 and won 10 games for only the second time in school history in 2011.

“We came a long way,” senior defensive tackle Travian Robertson said.

“It’s been a great ride coming from the bottom and trying to get to the top.”

But that run has come without much success in the postseason. Spurrier is just 1-4 in bowl games and the Gamecocks have been outscored 77-38 in their last three losses.

Allen said the losses have been frustrating, but what’s been more frustrating is seeing a lack of chemistry at times. Allen said that before last season’s run to Atlanta, he noticed that players were never as close as they should have been. The Gamecocks were more of a group than a team.

Now, Allen said he sees more of a family inside South Carolina’s football complex. There is more trust and players are happier around each other. That mentality has the Gamecocks feeling much more confident heading into the Capital One Bowl.

With South Carolina’s recent success have come heightened expectations. Robertson and Allen agreed that fans are proud of where the program has come but expect the winning to continue and expect the Gamecocks to be competing for championships more often.

Allen and Robertson are OK with that because they feel South Carolina is on track to do just that.

“We came in with the purpose to win and try to win championships,” Robertson said. “We’ve accomplished some of our goals, but it feels great to know that we started something that’s going to be great around here. I know that once we get it started, Coach Spurrier and all of the other coaches are going to keep it going.”

Regardless of Monday’s outcome, Allen said he’d always look back at his South Carolina career and feel as though he helped accomplish a lot for the program.

Still, hoisting that bowl trophy for the first time wouldn’t be so bad.

“Hopefully it means a lot and I can tell my kids and they can tell their kids about it,” he said. “Hopefully, the tradition doesn’t stop with me and it goes along with my kids.”

Capital One Bowl: Keys for S. Carolina

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
12:00
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A look at three keys to the game for South Carolina in its Capital One Bowl matchup with Nebraska on Monday:

1. Balance on offense: The Gamecocks don’t want to put sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw in a position where he has to throw. Instead, they want to be able to run the ball successfully, use Shaw some in the zone read portion of their running game and then hit some big plays in the passing game. This will likely be junior receiver Alshon Jeffery’s final game in a South Carolina uniform. He needs to be a factor in this game if the Gamecocks are going to win.

2. Force Martinez to throw: There’s a reason Nebraska is ranked 103rd nationally in passing offense. The Cornhuskers would rather run it than throw it. Quarterback Taylor Martinez didn’t throw any interceptions in his final four games, and the Huskers would prefer to throw it no more than 23 to 25 times. He threw it a season-high 37 times in the loss to Northwestern and only completed nine passes two weeks later in the loss to Michigan.

3. Get off to a good start: One of the common denominators for South Carolina in its bowl misery is getting off to slow starts. The Gamecocks would like to change that. Playing with the lead would be nice, especially when your defense is playing as well as the Gamecocks are entering this game.
South Carolina looks to win 11 games in a season for the first time in school history when it plays Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl on Monday in Orlando. Here’s a quick preview:

WHO TO WATCH: South Carolina sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw. After taking over the starting job in October from fifth-year senior Stephen Garcia, Shaw was at his best to close the regular season. He was 30-of-38 passing in his final two games and torched Clemson with three touchdown passes and one rushing touchdown. Garcia was never able to lead South Carolina to a bowl victory, and his bowl performances typically mirrored the Gamecocks’ struggles in the postseason. Here’s Shaw’s chance to break that curse in his first postseason start.

WHAT TO WATCH: South Carolina’s front seven vs. Nebraska’s running game. The Gamecocks are menacing up front defensively with a mix of veterans and young talent. Senior defensive end Melvin Ingram was the Gamecocks' first consensus All-American in nearly 30 years, and freshman defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is on a fast track to the NFL after collecting six sacks and forcing five fumbles this season. They will have their hands full with the Nebraska running game, and that includes sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez. Rex Burkhead leads the Cornhuskers with 1,268 rushing yards, but Martinez also racked up 837 yards and rushed for nine touchdowns. Nebraska averages 223.9 rushing yards per game, which is ranked No. 13 nationally.

WHY TO WATCH: Both teams want to get sour bowl tastes out of their mouths. The Gamecocks have lost three in a row, including a couple of wretched performances. The Huskers laid an egg last season in their second consecutive Holiday Bowl appearance, bowing meekly to Washington 19-7. Nebraska has its sights set on a third straight 10-win season. A South Carolina win would give the Gamecocks their first 11-win season in school history and would ensure a top 10 finish.

PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Nebraska 20. The Gamecocks showed a lot of resolve this season, and it took them a while to adapt to what Shaw does best at quarterback. Down the stretch, he was excellent, and his teammates played well around him. The best thing the Gamecocks have going for them is one of the best defenses in the country, and newly named defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward will turn those guys loose in Orlando.

Nunn back at practice for Gamecocks

December, 29, 2011
12/29/11
3:35
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South Carolina has welcomed back a familiar face to the offensive line as the Capital One Bowl draws near.

Senior tackle Kyle Nunn is back practicing after suffering a serious back injury and having a blood clot removed from his leg. Nunn started the first four games of the season at left tackle for the Gamecocks, but suffered his back injury in Week 3 against Navy. His final game came against Vanderbilt a week later.

Nunn later underwent surgery to remove the blood clot, putting his chances of returning for any part of the 2011 season in even more doubt.

It appeared as if Nunn was going to apply for a sixth year of eligibility, but now, Nunn could be ending the season playing in his South Carolina uniform.

"My first couple days (of practice) were kind of shaky, but I’m back now," Nunn said Thursday. "The back injury caused my leg not to work as it was supposed to because it was pinching on the nerve. It’s really scary when you wake up and can’t feel your leg. As soon as the surgery was over, all the feeling came back and everything was back. It was good.”

Nunn, who has been practicing at left tackle, is trying to play against Nebraska Monday, but if he does, he won't be eligible for a medical hardship waiver that would grant him another year.

“I feel really good about myself right now," he said.

South Carolina's line is much better with Nunn out there, so his return would certainly boost the Gamecocks' offense. If he were able to play left tackle, Rokevious Watkins could move back to right tackle, where he started the first five games of the season.

Having Watkins on the right side would provide the line with a little more stability. Freshmen Cody Gibson and Mike Matulis have switched off at right tackle since Watkins moved to left tackle.

Next Level SEC bowl stats

December, 28, 2011
12/28/11
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It's time to go "Next Level" with some of the bowl games involving SEC teams.

The good people at ESPN Stats & Information have come up with more extra interesting stats for a few bowl games involving the SEC.

Stats & Info checked out the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Outback Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, the AT&T Cotton Bowl and the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. We don't want to overload you with info, so we'll start with the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Outback Bowl and the Capital One Bowl.

There are some interesting notes in here, so take a look:

Chick-fil-A Bowl -- Virginia vs. No. 25 Auburn

  • Clint Moseley has been an upgrade on long passes since taking over as Auburn’s starting quarterback. Moseley has completed more than 50 percent of his throws of 15-plus yards in three of five games against SEC opponents this season. Neither Barrett Trotter nor Kiehl Frazier accomplished this feat once against SEC opponents.
  • Auburn has not rushed for 300 yards in a game this season, after having eight such games last season. The Tigers have 16 rushing touchdowns this season and 12 rushes of 20 yards or longer. It only took 11 games last season for Cam Newton to surpass those totals by himself.
  • Auburn’s lack of a running game has hurt its play-action passing game. The Tigers have not thrown for more than 76 yards off play-action against an AQ opponent (nine games) this season. Last season, the Tigers threw for at least 100 yards off a run fake in three of its final four games, including 234 in the BCS Championship Game.
  • Virginia has held its opponents to no gain or a loss on 39.9 percent of its plays this season, second best in the ACC and sixth best in FBS. The Cavaliers have been even better in their last four games, holding opponents to no yards or less on 43.8 percent of their plays.
Outback Bowl –- No. 17 Michigan State vs. No. 16 Georgia
  • Isaiah Crowell was limited to 6 yards on seven carries inside the tackles against LSU in the SEC championship game. It was his fewest yards and lowest average inside the tackles. Crowell entered the game average 60.5 yards and 4.7 yards per carry on the same run.
  • If Georgia is unable to run the ball, it could make the Bulldogs predictable on first down. Aaron Murray leads the SEC and is tied for fourth nationally with 17 touchdown passes on first down this season.
  • B.J. Cunningham has emerged as Kirk Cousins’ big-play threat. Cunningham has five of the team’s six receiving touchdowns on passes thrown 20 yards or longer this season, including one in each of the Spartans’ last four games.
  • Georgia and Michigan State’s defenses are both ranked in the top six of FBS in yards per game and yards per play this season. The Bulldogs and Spartans have both forced 106 negative plays, which is the fifth most in FBS.
Capital One Bowl –- No. 20 Nebraska vs. No. 9 South Carolina
  • Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez completes 40.8 percent of his throws of 15-plus yards for his career against AQ opponents. Nebraska is 7-0 against AQ opponents when Martinez completes at least 50 percent of these passes, including the win in its last game against Iowa.
  • Nebraska leads the FBS with 17 rushing touchdowns of 40 yards or longer since the start of the 2010 season. The Cornhuskers are 9-1 when they have one such run with the only loss coming in the 2010 Big 12 championship game to Oklahoma.
  • Connor Shaw completed 7 of 12 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns when Clemson sent five or more pass-rushers on a play. It was Shaw’s seventh straight game where he completed at least 58 percent of his passes against the blitz this season. The Gamecocks were 6-1 in those games with the only loss coming to Arkansas.
  • Shaw has been more productive at home, averaging 107 more passing yards per game at home than on the road in the games that he started. One reason for Shaw’s increased success in Columbia is the accuracy of his deep ball.
  • South Carolina has only given up 112 plays of 10 or more yards this season, second fewest in FBS. In their last game, the Gamecocks held Clemson to a season-low eight such plays, including just four pass plays.
  • South Carolina has 10 plays of 20 yards or more in its four games against FBS opponents since Marcus Lattimore got hurt against Mississippi State. It’s tied for the third fewest such plays during that time period (from Oct. 16 on).
We know the players everyone will being watching when SEC teams start postseason play.

You have Jordan Jefferson. Everyone wants to see Trent Richardson. People want to know how John Brantley really ends things as a Gator.

But there are a few other players to keep an eye on as well during the heart of bowl season. Here's a look at a player from each SEC participant that we can't forget about this time of year:

ALABAMA

WR Marquis Maze: Alabama didn't generate much of a passing game last time it met LSU's defense, but it'll have to this time around and Maze could be a major player here. He was seventh in the SEC in receiving and caught a game-high six passes during the first game, but also had that devastating interception on a trick play. He's no doubt looking to redeem himself in the national championship.

ARKANSAS

DE Tenarius Wright: The Cotton Bowl figures to be a high-scoring affair with these two offenses going at it. But the best way to stop an offensive train is to get a lot of pressure in the backfield. That's where Wright comes into play. Jake Bequette will be manning one side, with Wright on the other. Wright has been hampered by a broken arm this year, but is all healed up and if he can apply some pressure to Kansas State's backfield it should slow down the Wildcats.

AUBURN

RB Tre Mason: The Tigers lost their best offensive weapon for the Chick-fil-A Bowl when running back Michael Dyer was suspended. Mason will now have the opportunity to help Onterio McCalebb and should get a bunch of carries against a Virginia team that possesses a pretty good run defense. Mason has that big-back mentality and should complement McCalebb well.

FLORIDA

WR Deonte Thompson: This is Thompson's last game in a Florida uniform. With Florida looking for one last offensive spark this season, maybe Thompson can provide that. Thompson caught just 19 passes during the regular season, but he has tremendous speed and has the ability to make one or two last plays for the Gators against Ohio State in the Gator Bowl.

GEORGIA

TE Aron White: He's a player who can sneak up on defenses. With fellow tight end Orson Charles and receiver Malcolm Mitchell getting most of the attention in Georgia's passing game, White can slip right by and make a big play. Michigan State's defense is tough and talented, but it can't forget about someone who had four touchdowns on nine total catches.

LSU

RB Spencer Ware: He's fallen under the radar since his midseason suspension. Running backs designated as backups have had more of an impact for the Tigers in recent weeks, but Ware is still a bruiser and he'll still need to show up against the Crimson Tide. For LSU to pound the ball against Alabama, it will need all of the components of that talented backfield and we could see the Ware of old in New Orleans.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

CB Corey Broomfield: It's been a relatively quiet year for Broomfield. He's recorded a good bit of tackles, but has yet to snag an interception. What a perfect time to come alive for the Bulldogs. There has been more bend in Mississippi State's secondary than most expected this year, but there is still a lot of talent back there. Broomfield has the ability to be a game changer and his coverage skills could be an issue for Wake Forest in the Music City Bowl.

SOUTH CAROLINA

RB Brandon Wilds: He surprised most of us with the way he played after Marcus Lattimore went down. He's certainly not as talented as Lattimore, but he works hard and he has become a major component to the Gamecocks' offense. For this offense to get going against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, Wilds needs to continue to play with that bulldog-like mentality between the tackles.

VANDERBILT

WR Chris Boyd: The Commodores have a pretty good group of offensive playmakers, but Boyd could end up being really special. As a freshman, he leads Vandy with seven touchdown receptions. Cincinnati will likely key in on running back Zac Stacy and top receiver Jordan Matthews, meaning Boyd could have a big day. The Bearcats will have to monitor both Boyd and Matthews during the Liberty Bowl, which won't be easy.

Jeffery and Swearinger miss practice

December, 19, 2011
12/19/11
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South Carolina returned to practice Sunday, but did so without wide receiver Alshon Jeffery or safety D.J. Swearinger.

Jeffery is recovering from offseason surgery on his left hand, while Swearinger dealt with a foot injury. Jeffery told reporters Sunday that his hand is feeling better and he and his coaches expect him to play against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

“Alshon’s been out here spectating a little bit,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “He’s been running with the guys. He could catch one-handed, but should be ready for the bowl game. D.J. has that foot that they’d like him to stay off of. Terrence Campbell is not practicing this week. Hopefully when we get to Orlando they can get in shape a little bit.”

Campbell broke his fibula against Clemson, but could return for the bowl game.

Cornerback C.C. Whitlock also missed practice with a knee injury, while defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles limped off the practice field with a lower leg injury. The extent of Quarles' injury wasn't known Sunday.

Wide receiver Bruce Ellington was not at practice, either, after playing basketball against Ohio State Saturday.

“I think Bruce is supposed to come around tomorrow, but we’ve got to wait and see," Spurrier said. "We’ve pretty much left it up to him. If he’s going to play some, he needs to get out here and get the game plan down. I think he’s supposed to be here most of the time.”

Johnson update: Spurrier could be yet another SEC coach who will be looking for a new coordinator, as defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson is still in the mix for the Southern Miss head-coaching job. Johnson interviewed for the job last week.

“You’ll have to ask Ellis about that,” Spurrier said. “From what I’ve heard, he’s got a good shot at it. We'll wait and see how it plays out.”

Regardless of whether Johnson gets the job or not, Spurrier said he expects him to coach South Carolina's defense against Nebraska.

Spurrier helping out running backs and tight ends: With Jay Graham heading to coach running backs at Tennessee, his alma mater, Spurrier said he and graduate assistant Tommy Galt are coaching running backs and tight ends until Spurrier hires a replacement for Graham.

"They are doing well," Spurrier said. "We’re not changing a lot of things we do so hopefully we can get those positions ready to go against Nebraska."

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