Carolina Showdown

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier will merely have to remind his players of their team's history if they start getting too satisfied with their top-10 ranking.

The seventh-ranked Gamecocks look to avoid a fall down the rankings Saturday when they visit upset-minded North Carolina.

South Carolina (5-1) beat then-No. 8 Kentucky 38-23 on Oct. 4, taking over the top spot in the SEC East Division and earning its first top-10 ranking since 2001. The Gamecocks, whose only loss this season came at LSU on Sept. 22, also have a victory at Georgia on their resume and have outscored their opponents 158-73 in their five wins.

Spurrier, in his third season at South Carolina, reigned over streaks of 60, 32 and 19 straight games in the top 10 during his 12 seasons as coach at Florida and knows better than to get too excited over his current team's rise.

"Hopefully," he said, "our players are realistic to know that we're a long ways off from really being an outstanding team."

Oddsmakers from SBG Global  have made South Carolina -7 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game, the over/under has been set at 47 total points (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 91% of bets for this game have been placed on South Carolina -7 (View College Football bet percentages).

South Carolina's fans know how fleeting a high ranking can be. The Gamecocks moved to No. 9 in 2001 after starting 5-0, but dropped out of the top 10 the following week after a 10-7 defeat at Arkansas.

They spent three weeks at No. 8 during the 1988 season before a loss at Georgia Tech. In 1984, South Carolina was ranked as high as No. 2 thanks to a 9-0 start, but losses to Navy and Oklahoma State tarnished its only 10-win season.

"We mention history a little bit," Spurrier said. "I think you have to learn a little bit from history. But there's no guarantee we can avoid that. No guarantee at all."

Against the Wildcats, quarterback Chris Smelley completed 17 of 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, defensive end Eric Norwood tied an NCAA record by returning two fumbles for scores.

"Our guys are starting to believe the ball can keep bouncing our way," Spurrier said.

Still, Spurrier recognizes his team has plenty of room for improvement. He pointed out the Gamecocks rank 11th in the league in both rushing (130.7 yards per game) and rush defense (193.8).

"We're not stopping the run and we're not running very far, but somehow or another we're making plays," he said. "Our scoring defense has been excellent; our pass defense has been excellent. We need to continue hopefully doing those things."

Spurrier is also wary of North Carolina, despite its 2-4 record. The Tar Heels are coming off a 33-27 win over Miami and three of their losses - to East Carolina, Virginia and Virginia Tech - have come by seven points or fewer.

"They could beat us, we know that," Spurrier said. "If we're going to beat them, we have to really play well. We have to play better than we have been playing."

The Tar Heels own a 34-16-4 advantage in the all-time series between the teams, which haven't met since 1991. Spurrier is 3-0 against North Carolina, with all three victories coming while he was at Duke from 1987-89.

Last week's victory over the Hurricanes was encouraging for the Tar Heels, who are hoping first-year coach Butch Davis can turn around their program much like Spurrier has done at South Carolina.

"Basically, we showed that we can finish," freshman defensive tackle Marvin Austin said.

Quarterback T.J. Yates completed 15 of 23 passes for 218 yards and scored on a keeper. Brandon Tate scored his first career rushing touchdown on a 54-yard end-around ,and Anthony Elzy also ran for 95 yards and a score for the Tar Heels, who rushed for a season-high 183 yards.

The Tar Heels have run for 307 yards in their last two games after totaling just 318 yards on the ground in their first four.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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