SEC: South Carolina Gamecocks

The Spurrier Shuffle? HBC shows off moves

August, 8, 2014
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We know Steve Spurrier could play quarterback back in the day. We know he can coach. We certainly know he can talk.

Now we know he can dance.

Luckily for us -- the college football public -- at least one camera was rolling when the 69-year-old legend broke into dance at South Carolina practice Friday.
 

Flip Week: South Carolina

December, 24, 2013
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Editor's note: During Week 12, 10 ESPN.com reporters changed conferences to experience college football in unfamiliar territory. Here is what they learned.

Recall last month that the ESPN reporters flipped out for a few days and ventured to parts of the country unknown to them.

This Southern California boy was transported to a different South. Not going to lie -- most of what I knew about the South I learned from catching snippets of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour on TV. I could already see the "you might be a redneck" texts coming from my buddies. My cable guy neither looks nor talks like Larry.

[+] EnlargeChris Fulmer
Kevin GemmellSouth Carolina fans welcomed a West Coast native to their tailgate before the Florida game Nov. 16.
But that wasn't what I got. Instead, I was welcomed with open arms by warm people who love their food, love their friends and love their football. I spent a great deal of time with a group called "The Ultimate Tailgaters" who wouldn't let me leave with an empty stomach or empty arms. There were hugs all around.

I saw Florida fans and South Carolina fans mingling -- and talking a little bit of trash. I saw cocktails toasted, toured a Cockaboose and learned a great deal about a region of the country I knew little about.

Excited but admittedly a bit apprehensive about what I'd encounter, I'm happy to say I left richer for the experience.

Best meal: A good burger in Southern California is a good burger in Columbia, S.C. So checking out Pawley's Front Porch in Five Points with a few of my new USC friends was all well and good. But honestly, the best food I had was wandering from tailgate to tailgate trying out the local fare. From boiled peanuts and fried gator tail to the briskets, ribs and sausages, the tailgating grub was outstanding. And I do find it humorous that I can get better pulled pork in the Columbia, S.C., airport than I can in San Diego.

Must-see sight in Columbia: I loved the history of the region (which I'll get into in the next section). But aside from seeing good football and some great historical sites, one absolutely must take a stroll through The Horseshoe -- the old part of campus. It's obvious why "College GameDay" picks this venue to set up at when it visits Columbia. The leaves were turning and it was simply beautiful. I could picture myself 20 years ago as a student, parked under a tree with a cup of coffee furiously trying to make sense of Immanuel Kant.

Biggest surprise: As noted, I found the history of the area fascinating. I'm no Civil War buff, but it always interested me. In Pac-12 country, when we talk about the Civil War, it refers to Oregon's recent dominance over Oregon State. But hearing how most of the college was spared during the Civil War because it was converted into a hospital, and seeing the George Washington statue in front of the state house (allegedly once used as target practice for Confederate soldiers) was engrossing. So the biggest surprise to me was how much the Civil War is still such a part of the daily culture and community, for better or worse. It's something we simply don't think about on the West Coast.

Biggest difference from the Pac-12: The football wasn't all that different. The SEC has speed. The Pac-12 has speed. In fact, there was a play when Shon Carson broke off a 58-yard run and got caught from behind by two defenders in the open field. I remember thinking to myself, no way Ka'Deem Carey or Bishop Sankey or De'Anthony Thomas gets caught from behind (SEC fans, no doubt, will attribute that to the league's superior defensive speed).

I have been to many Pac-12 games hours in advance where the lots are only half-full. But eight hours before kickoff in Columbia, the traffic on Bluff Road rivaled the 405 at 5 p.m. on a weekday. SEC folks come out early and make it a full day. There are some Pac-12 fans who do as well, but a lot more in the South.

They said it: My outstanding tour guide for one of the days was Cory Burkarth, a member of USC's sports information department. I asked him how folks from South Carolina refer to Californians like myself. To which he replied: "You're not from the South. You're not a Yankee. If you're from the West Coast, you're a hippie." I laughed and bought him a burger.

If I could go back: I'd sit in the student section and jump up and down during the players' entrance to "2001: A Space Odyssey" and wave my towel every time "Sandstorm" is played before a kickoff. I was on the field for it, several times, but the vibe and energy coming from the stands was intense. And, next time around, I'll be sure to refer to our USC as Southern California. Lesson learned, Columbia, and thanks for the hospitality.

South Carolina season preview

August, 7, 2013
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Today we're looking at South Carolina, which enters the 2013 season as one of the favorites in the Eastern Division.

Coach: Steve Spurrier (208-77-2 overall, 66-37 at South Carolina)

2012 record: 11-2

[+] EnlargeConnor Shaw
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireSouth Carolina QB Connor Shaw leads a talented offense.
Key losses: RB Marcus Lattimore, WR Ace Sanders, LB Shaq Wilson, FS D.J. Swearinger, DE Devin Taylor

Key returnees: DE Jadeveon Clowney, WR Bruce Ellington, QB Connor Shaw, CB Victor Hampton, DT Kelcy Quarles

Newcomer to watch: C Cody Waldrop

Biggest games in 2013: vs. North Carolina (Aug. 29), at Georgia (Sept. 7), vs. Florida (Nov. 16), vs. Clemson (Nov. 30)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: South Carolina’s offensive line is huge -- the smallest of the projected starters is 314 pounds -- so there should be little issue in opening holes for the running game. However, the group has to improve in pass protection. The unit has given up 68 sacks over the past two seasons. The Gamecocks have particularly struggled against quicker pass-rushers, which is a bit surprising since the line works against Clowney throughout camp and spring practice. There’s some talent at receiver, but it might not develop if the line continues to have trouble containing the rush.

Forecast: South Carolina has put together back-to-back 11-2 seasons for the first time in school history, but all that has gotten the Gamecocks are Capital One and Outback bowl appearances. South Carolina made the SEC title game in 2010, but was edged out in the Eastern Division by Georgia the past two seasons. The Gamecocks are good enough to win the division in 2013 thanks to a favorable schedule, provided they don’t trip up during a mid-October road trip.

The Gamecocks feel they have a star-in-waiting in tailback Mike Davis, who filled in admirably when Lattimore went down with another season-ending knee injury. He’ll be running behind a mammoth offensive line that could be the best run-blocking unit in the league. Quarterbacks Shaw and Dylan Thompson are a solid duo.

The receivers aren’t big, but they are fast and elusive. The group is led by the 5-foot-9, 196-pound Ellington (40 catches last season). Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland and Nick Jones give the offense the big-play potential it lost when Sanders decided to leave after his junior season.

But it’s on defense where the Gamecocks really shine, and it begins with Clowney -- a Heisman candidate who is projected to be the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2014. He’s a dangerous pass-rusher who can change the game in one play. He’s got help from Quarles, who was a freshman All-American in 2011, and Hampton. Quarles is a run-stuffer which some pass-rush ability. Hampton is South Carolina’s top cover cornerback.

There are questions at linebacker, where the Gamecocks are counting on some unproven players and a key performer, Cedrick Cooper, coming back from a knee injury.

South Carolina avoids LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M. The Gamecocks do play at Georgia in Week 2, and if they win that game the season will likely come down to the Florida game in Columbia.
LSU coach Les Miles doesn't have a problem playing eight SEC opponents every season.

Miles also realizes the Tigers could play nine SEC games in the very near future.

Miles just doesn't think it's fair that LSU has to play Florida every season, while other teams in the SEC West don't.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Derick E. Hingle/US PresswireUnder the current SEC scheduling format, Les Miles and LSU play Florida every season.
As SEC presidents, athletics directors and coaches convene this week for the league's annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla., long-term scheduling has become the hot-button issue.

The league is expected to vote whether to change its current 6-1-1 format, in which teams play each opponent from their respective division, along with one rotating foe and one permanent opponent from the opposite division. SEC officials could vote this week to add a ninth conference game or at least eliminate permanent crossover opponents.

The SEC adopted its current scheduling format to ensure that longstanding rivalries like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn would survive expansion.

By drawing the Gators as a permanent crossover opponent, Miles believes the Tigers drew the short end of the stick.

Miles won't complain about the scheduling format publicly, but he knows LSU is at a disadvantage.

And Miles is probably right.

"When they give us our schedule, I'm looking forward to having a great competition," Miles said.

Since 2000, LSU has played Florida and Georgia -- two of the SEC East's best programs -- a total of 17 times. Auburn is the only SEC West team which has faced those teams more often, playing them 19 times. Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss have faced them a total of 10 times each, while Alabama has played them only eight times.

While it's not fair that LSU has faced the Bulldogs and Gators nearly twice as often as Alabama has played them since 2000, Miles' argument might fall on deaf ears. Auburn and Georgia aren't going to surrender the longtime series -- the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry has been played 116 times since 1892. Likewise, Alabama and Tennessee have played 95 times since 1901, a game so revered it's named for its traditional place on the calendar, the Third Saturday in October.

And Ole Miss would probably rather play Vanderbilt every season instead of Florida, Georgia or South Carolina, and Mississippi State isn't going pass up a chance to play Kentucky every year.

"There's never going to be a fair way," said Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, whose Aggies drew Missouri as a permanent crossover opponent. "If you look back seven or eight years ago, you would have said the SEC East was the strongest division. You can't say what's fair, because things change in this league. You can't look at tradition. Ten years ago, you might have wanted to play South Carolina. Now you don't want anything to do with them. You don't know what Tennessee is going to do with a new coach. I know Butch Jones is going to do a great job."

Florida-LSU has become one of the league's most anticipated games every season. They've been two of the league's most dominant teams over the past decade. They've combined to appear in seven SEC championship games since 2003, and they've combined to play in nine BCS bowl games, including five BCS national championship games. In their past 10 meetings, LSU and Florida were both ranked in the top 25 of the coaches' poll nine times. Conversely, Alabama and Tennessee were both ranked only once in their past 10 meetings.

The loser of the Florida-LSU regular-season game has paid dearly over the past 10 seasons. LSU's 23-10 loss at Florida in 2006 knocked the Tigers out of the SEC championship game (the Gators defeated Arkansas 38-28 and then blasted Ohio State 41-14 to win the BCS title). Last year, LSU's 14-6 loss at Florida probably cost it a spot in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, if not another trip to a BCS bowl game.

Florida's losses to LSU in 2002, '05 and '07 kept them out of the SEC championship game and potentially BCS bowl games.

Video: Analyzing the Outback Bowl

January, 1, 2013
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Andrea Adelson and Michael Rothstein discuss South Carolina's wild 33-28 win against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.

Pregame: Outback Bowl

January, 1, 2013
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Michigan (8-4, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC)

Who to watch: South Carolina sophomore defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Against a somewhat suspect Michigan offensive line -- other than future NFL first-round tackle Taylor Lewan -- Clowney could have a huge day. He tied for second in the FBS with 13 sacks, and was second in tackles for loss (21.5, 1.95 per game). Between the Wolverines’ line and a running game which rarely produced this season, this sets up well for Clowney.

What to watch: Michigan’s offense. One of the bigger questions for the Wolverines is where senior Denard Robinson will line up and how often. Michigan likely plans on using Robinson at quarterback, running back and wide receiver. In addition to it being Robinson’s last college game -- and a potential preview of what he’ll try to do in the NFL -- he needs 85 rushing yards to tie former West Virginia quarterback Pat White for the FBS quarterback rushing record.

Why to watch: Besides the NFL-level matchup between Clowney and Lewan and the potential explosiveness in Robinson’s last game, this could be a chance to see South Carolina, one of the more promising teams next year, jump-start a run for the 2013 season. The Gamecocks should return most of their offense next season, along with Clowney and a few others on defense, which could set them up for another successful year in the SEC. On the Michigan side, if quarterback Devin Gardner has a good day -- he’s averaged 251.25 yards passing in his four starts -- it could set him up for a special 2013 season.

Prediction: While Michigan’s offense could be very fun to watch and explosive with Robinson moving all over the field, the Wolverines still have the same issues with their running backs and offensive line that they’ve had all season long. Add into that a secondary missing starting cornerback J.T. Floyd because of suspension, and it could be a tough day for Michigan. Gardner and Robinson keep it close on offense, but South Carolina has too much. South Carolina 24, Michigan 17.

Mizzou, South Carolina, victorious

November, 10, 2012
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Missouri 51, Tennessee 48 (4 OT): Redshirt freshman kicker Andrew Baggett connected on a 35-yard field goal, lifting the Tigers to a thrilling four-overtime road victory at Neyland Stadium.

Missouri needed a near-miracle just to get the game to overtime, trailing 28-21 in the final minute of regulation. The Tigers converted two fourth downs, including a 25-yard touchdown pass from James Franklin to Dorial Green-Beckham on 4th-and-12 to tie the game at 28-28 with 47 seconds left.

Boos rained down from the fans at Neyland when the Volunteers decided to run out the clock and go to overtime.

The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first two overtimes, and Missouri receiver Marcus Lucas made another impressive catch, an 18-yard reception reminiscent of Green-Beckham's regulation haul, to send it to a third overtime tied at 42.

The teams exchanged touchdowns and failed two-point conversion attempts in the third overtime, then Tennessee coach Derek Dooley made an interesting decision in the fourth overtime, electing to go for it on fourth-and-3 at the Missouri 18. Quarterback Tyler Bray's pass to Zach Rogers fell incomplete and the Vols paid for it when the Tigers capitalized with Baggett's game-winning kick.

The loss keeps Tennessee (4-6, 0-6 SEC) winless in conference play while the Tigers (5-5, 2-5) picked up their second SEC win.

Franklin's day was a good one, as he went 19-of-32 for 226 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also picked up 43 yards on the ground, and senior running back Kendial Lawrence rolled to a 153-yard, two-touchdown day on 21 carries, which included a 77-yard third-quarter touchdown run.

Tennessee was awful in the penalty department, committing 11 for 80 yards.

South Carolina 38, Arkansas 20: Connor Shaw and the Gamecocks receivers found plenty of room downfield en route to the resounding victory against the Razorbacks at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Shaw, the Gamecocks' junior quarterback, was 14-of-22 passing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He was able to hit on big plays down the field early and often -- the first coming on a 29-yard pass to a wide-open freshman tight end Jerell Adams.

The Razorbacks moved the ball well themselves in the first half, getting inside the Gamecocks' 10 on three straight drives, but only yielded 10 points from those three trips. The first ended in a lost fumble by Dennis Johnson, the second resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Wilson to Keon Hatcher, and the third stalled before becoming a short Zach Hocker field goal.

Shaw continued his downfield assault before the half, hitting a wide open Bruce Ellington for a 42-yard touchdown at the 1:30 mark, giving South Carolina a 21-10 lead going into halftime.

The defense got in on the act in the third quarter when D.J. Swearinger stepped in front of a Wilson pass and returned it 69 yards for a score and a 31-10 lead.

The Gamecocks put ample pressure on Wilson, sacking him four times and picking up four hurries as well. Wilson was productive when he did have time (26-of-41, 277 yards) but threw two interceptions with his two touchdowns.

South Carolina was able to keep the chains moving fairly well, converting 7-of-13 attempts on third down. That's an area where Arkansas struggled mightily (3-of-17). The turnover battle went in the Gamecocks' favor also, 3-1, with the only South Carolina turnover coming with Shaw taking a shot in the end zone holding a 38-13 lead in the fourth.

Minimal precedent for Alabama win vs LSU

November, 2, 2012
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History shows that the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, who are coming off a home win against a Top-20 opponent Mississippi State, have a tough test Saturday against another highly ranked opponent in the fifth-ranked LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium.

The AP No. 1 team has faced a Top-20 opponent on the road the week after a home win against another Top-20 opponent nine previous times. The AP No. 1 team is just 2-7 in those games, including the Crimson Tide, who lost in that situation at South Carolina two years ago.

Some of these games are defining moments in the history of at least one of the schools involved.

Here’s a summary of each game since 2000 that fits the same description as Alabama’s game at LSU this Saturday.

2010: 19 South Carolina def. 1 Alabama, 35-21
The Gamecocks came out firing, opening up a 21-3 lead that couldn’t be overcome en route to a 35-21 victory behind three touchdown passes from Stephen Garcia and three scores from freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.

The defense limited future NFL first-rounders Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to just 64 yards on the ground, allowing South Carolina to earn the school’s first victory vs a No. 1-ranked opponent.

2008: 6 Texas Tech def. 1 Texas, 39-33
Texas was a play away from winning before Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell found Michael Crabtree on the sideline for the dramatic game-winning touchdown with one second left.

That loss would be the Longhorns’ only defeat of the season, but was enough to leave them (controversially) out of the BCS national title game that season.

2007: 17 Kentucky def. 1 LSU, 43-37 (3 OT)
The Wildcats, who hadn’t beaten a top-ranked opponent since taking down Ole Miss in 1964, rallied from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to force overtime.

In the third extra period, Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson found Steve Johnson for a 7-yard touchdown pass, and LSU was unable to pick up a first down on its possession, setting off a wild celebration at Commonwealth Stadium.

Though it seemed like the loss dashed the Tigers’ national title hopes, they actually went on to lose another triple-overtime game later that season (50-48 to Arkansas), but still would end up playing for and winning the national title that season.

2001: 1 Miami (FL) def. 14 Virginia Tech, 26-24
The Hurricanes appeared to have the game under control after taking a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Virginia Tech rallied for two touchdowns, including one off a blocked punt.

A failed two-point conversion by the Hokies and a late interception by Ed Reed (his second of the day) helped the Hurricanes ward off the comeback, giving them a two-point win that was their only single-digit margin of the season. Miami went on to crush Nebraska in the Rose Bowl and win the national title.

UGA fails on national stage once again

October, 7, 2012
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COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Georgia has found itself in college football's center ring only a few times in the last several seasons -- and when it has, the results have not been pretty.

The No. 5 Bulldogs suffered another humiliating loss while occupying the national spotlight on Saturday night, watching No. 6 South Carolina immediately jump out to an enormous lead en route to a 35-7 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Asked about the widespread national perception that Georgia fails to rise to the occasion in the biggest moments, senior defensive end Abry Jones couldn't dispute that opinion.

"It's hard to argue that point of fact when we really don't come and put in work when the time comes," Jones said. "It's hard to argue something when you have nothing to put forth -- no proof or anything like that. We're definitely going to have to keep working and then when we get another opportunity to, just come up and show up and win the game."

Read the full story here.

Ole Miss offense could test Tide streak

September, 28, 2012
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1. Heading into its game this week at No. 1 Alabama, Ole Miss is scoring nearly 37 points per game. Therefore, the Rebels might be a test for a Tide defense that has allowed a total of three touchdowns in its last nine games against SEC competition.

Ole Miss was one of the teams that managed a single TD against the Tide defense last year; Florida and Mississippi State were the others. What's amazing is that Alabama doesn't even have the SEC's longest active streak of allowing no more than one TD to a conference opponent's offense. After last weekend's game against Auburn, LSU has now done that in 11 consecutive games.

2. Connor Shaw missed on his first pass of the game last week against Missouri but then completed his last 20 pass attempts. With four more consecutive completions, he'll tie Tennessee's Tee Martin in 1998 for the longest SEC streak of consecutive completions. Martin's streak was the national record for 13 years until East Carolina's Dominique Davis (36 straight completions) broke it last year.

How do Shaw's odds look against Kentucky, his opponent this weekend? Only once in its last 19 games has Kentucky allowed a passer to complete four straight to start a game. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater did it against the Wildcats in the season opener this year. And Shaw will have to top his performance from last year against Kentucky. In that game, Shaw threw an incompletion on his second pass attempt.

3. Michigan State is looking to win consecutive games with Ohio State after beating the Buckeyes last year 10-7 in Columbus. Ohio State has not lost back-to-back meetings with a conference opponent since Wisconsin beat the Buckeyes in 2003 and 2004.

That Ohio State streak of eight years without consecutive losses to any conference opponent is the longest active streak among BCS-AQ conference teams. Ohio State has played 62 Big Ten games since losing those two straight to Wisconsin. If Michigan State can’t break the streak this week, Nebraska will have a chance to end it next week when it meets Ohio State in Columbus.

4. Taylor Martinez is completing 56 percent of his passes thrown 15 yards or more downfield this season. Martinez completed less 40 percent of such throws in each of his first two seasons as a starter.

Why is this improvement important? The Cornhuskers are 7-0 against AQ-opponents when Martinez completes at least half of his 15-yard throws and 4-9 when he does not, including last season’s loss to Wisconsin. Martinez finished that game with as many interceptions (three) as completions on 15-yard throws. It is his only career game with multiple interceptions on such throws.

5. This past weekend, Arkansas became the first preseason top-10 team since 2000 Alabama to pick up a third loss by the end of September. This weekend against former SWC rival – and new SEC rival – Texas A&M, the Razorbacks can join an even more exclusive club of futility.

With a loss, Arkansas would join the 1984 Pittsburgh Panthers as the only preseason top-10 teams to have four losses by the end of September. The 1984 Panthers began 0-4 after being ranked third in the preseason poll and finished the season 3-7-1.

SEC prime-time primer: Week 4

September, 22, 2012
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There's no nice way to say it: that was a boring slate of early games for the SEC in Week 4.

SEC fans had only a pair of shutouts -- Ole Miss' 39-0 win against Tulane and Florida's 38-0 pasting of Kentucky -- to entertain them for the first three hours of the day. No. 7 South Carolina is carrying the banner for the league right now, as the Gamecocks' game against Missouri is the only mid-afternoon kickoff today. And No. 1 Alabama has an overmatched Florida Atlantic in the early evening.

Other than that, it looks like we'll be cramming our SEC action into the prime-time windows this week.

What's coming tonight:

No. 2 LSU at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: LSU won this matchup in a 45-10 walk last year in Baton Rouge. Auburn's lopsided loss to No. 23 Mississippi State, along with its overtime escape last weekend against Louisiana-Monroe, indicate that might be the case again in 2012. Auburn has a few factors in its favor, though. The game is in Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Auburn is 5-1 in its past six meetings with LSU. It's also the first road start for untested LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Rutgers at Arkansas, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU: Whatever hope remains for Arkansas' season hinges on the Hogs' ability to get a win tonight. The Razorbacks have back-to-back road games at Texas A&M and Auburn following this nonconference tilt, and a 1-3 start would be less than ideal for their SEC prospects. Rutgers is off to a surprising 3-0 start, highlighted by a conference road win at South Florida.

South Carolina State at Texas A&M, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Aggies get one more nonconference tuneup before the SEC slate begins anew next week. Assuming A&M makes easy work of the Bulldogs, this might be the last time the Aggie starters get a break this season. The postponement of the Louisiana Tech game by Hurricane Isaac means no bye week this season.

South Alabama at No. 23 Mississippi State, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Bulldogs fought off a serious upset bid from Sun Belt heavyweight Troy last weekend -- the result of a possible letdown after the big win against Auburn. The schedule sets up nicely for a 7-0 start, so Mississippi State fans would undoubtedly love to see the Bulldogs flex some muscles against an overmatched opponent.

Akron at Tennessee, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN Gameplan: The Volunteers could use a confidence boost after last weekend's second half collapse against Florida. They'll need it, too. When Tennessee is done with the Zips, it faces four top-25 teams in a row -- three of them on the road.

Vanderbilt at No. 5 Georgia, 7:45 ET, ESPN2: Everyone is sure to keep an eye on this one because of the altercation between Georgia defensive coordinator and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin at the end of last year's Georgia win. That might steal some headlines, but the real story is that Vandy hasn't been an easy out for the Bulldogs recently. The Commodores defeated the Bulldogs in 2006, and they've come as close as three in 2007, 10 in 2008 and five last fall. Of course, tonight's game is in Athens, Ga., and the last time the Bulldogs hosted Vanderbilt they won 43-0.

Gamecocks hope to make do without Shaw

September, 8, 2012
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South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw toughed it out and returned from injury in the Gamecocks' win against Vanderbilt last week, but he won't be able to replicate that feat.

Shaw won't start in today's matchup against East Carolina, according to South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier. In his place will go sophomore Dylan Thompson, who was an uninspiring 0-of-3 during his three drives of relief against the Commodores.

That has to be a bit of welcome news for East Carolina, since the Pirates' defense allowed a whopping 300 passing yards to FCS opponent Appalachian State in their season opener. Shaw wasn't exactly impressive last week, completing 7-of-11 passes for just 67 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. That said, the junior did contribute 92 rushing yards on a night that saw South Carolina total just 272 yards.

Thompson doesn't provide nearly the same threat as a runner, and his inexperience as a passer will undoubtedly lead to loaded fronts as the Pirates look to key on South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore. Spurrier didn't rule out the possibility of playing Shaw, but the Gamecocks would love to get out of this matchup without having to use him.

What's coming up: Part 1

September, 8, 2012
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Mississippi State-Auburn and Florida-Texas A&M take center stage in the conference this afternoon, but three other SEC squads are also playing day games.

Here's what's coming:

East Carolina at No. 9 South Carolina (12:21 p.m. ET, SEC Network): Connor Shaw's status looks to be up in the air right up until kickoff in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks' signal caller bruised his shoulder in last week's ugly win against Vanderbilt, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said this week he could be a game-time decision. That means the Gamecocks will likely lean on running back Marcus Lattimore after his 110-yard, two touchdown performance last week. East Carolina is 1-0 after easily dispatching FCS foe Appalachian State to open the season. The Pirates held a 10-point halftime lead in last year's meeting with South Carolina before eventually falling 56-37.

Western Kentucky at No. 1 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network): It's probably not smart to doubt Alabama coach Nick Saban, with his two national titles in the last three seasons and three national titles overall. But Saban's assertion that it's "unfair" to write off Western Kentucky ahead of today's matchup is, frankly, laughable. Even if the Tide suffer a letdown after last weekend's statement win against Michigan, they'll roll through this game with ease. Saban seems concerned about his team getting complacent, but he shouldn't worry. Once his backups finish off the Hilltoppers, it will be time to get ready for a trip to No. 8 Arkansas.

Georgia State at Tennessee (4 p.m. ET, ESPN 3): If the Volunteers take care of business in their home opener against FCS squad Georgia State, it will be just their third 2-0 start in the last eight seasons. Tennessee will undoubtedly hope for more of the same fireworks between quarterback Tyler Bray and new wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who totaled 165 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns last week against N.C. State. If they can maintain the momentum, the Vols should have no trouble with the Panthers before hosting Florida next weekend.

South Carolina owns Thursday openers

August, 30, 2012
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ESPN Stats & InformationSouth Carolina is 5-0 on the 1st Thursday night of the college football season under Steve Spurrier.

Thursday sees the return of college football with the ninth-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks traveling to play the Vanderbilt Commodores (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

South Carolina has dominated the series with Vanderbilt lately, winning 10 of the past 12 meetings. The two losses came in 2007 and 2008, when unranked Vanderbilt teams topped a ranked South Carolina squad.

South Carolina is very familiar with playing on the first Thursday night of the college football season lately, and it’s become a staple of the Steve Spurrier era. The school has done it five previous times in the Spurrier era, and have come away with a victory each time.

The Gamecocks open as a top-10 team in the AP preseason poll for the first time in AP preseason poll history. They opened No. 12 in the poll last year and before that, their previous high was No. 14 in the 1959 preseason poll.

Gamecocks fans will be thrilled to welcome running back Marcus Lattimore back to the field. He missed his team’s final six games last season after tearing his ACL. He proved crucial to the South Carolina run game, as even after missing those six games last year, Lattimore still finished as the team’s leading rusher with 818 yards.

This is the second year of the James Franklin era for Vanderbilt. Last year, he became the only Vanderbilt coach in his first season to lead the team to a bowl game. The task this season could be challenging, as Vanderbilt has never made bowls in back-to-back seasons.

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This is the time of year when college football hype is in full effect via the release of the 15 preseason award watch lists that include a staggering total of 482 separate players.

As enjoyable as basking in the potential glory of an exciting season can be, for many of those players the level of hype they are receiving isn't entirely warranted.

For KC Joyner's list of nine players who fit this description, including South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore and Oklahoma's Landry Jones, click here Insider.

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