Plenty to Prove

Gainesville, FL - Florida clinched a spot in the SEC championship game with another impressive victory its last time out, but that hardly means it can relax.

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To keep their national title hopes alive, the third-ranked Gators must avoid a loss in their three remaining regular season games. They'll look to continue their recent dominance Saturday when they host former Florida coach Steve Spurrier and No. 23 South Carolina, which is trying to win for the seventh time in eight games.

Oddsmakers from have Florida –20.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 56% of bets for this game have been placed on Florida –20.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Florida (8-1, 6-1) won the SEC East for the second time in three years with a 42-14 victory over Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Gators will play No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game in Atlanta on Dec. 6, but that matchup will have a lot more significance if Florida arrives at the Georgia Dome with three more wins under its belt.

"Making it to Atlanta for the SEC championship was one of our goals at the beginning of the season, but our goal is to take care of business every Saturday," said Tim Tebow, who went 12-of-17 for 171 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 88 yards and two scores last Saturday.

With the victory, the Gators moved up one spot in the latest AP poll, and also moved up one spot to No. 4 in the BCS standings. After this game, they host The Citadel on Nov. 22 and wrap up the regular season at No. 20 Florida State on Nov. 29.

"It's a great accomplishment for our team, but we still have to play South Carolina so we're just trying to focus on one game at a time," Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes said of reaching the SEC title game. "We're not going to overlook anybody. We are turning our focus on South Carolina, and that's it."

The Gamecocks (7-3, 4-3) are back in the rankings for the first time in more than two months, and they hope their stay is not as brief as the last one.

South Carolina also was ranked No. 24 in the Aug. 31 poll after beating North Carolina State 34-0 in its season opener. The Gamecocks were out of the polls a week later, though, following a 24-17 loss to Vanderbilt.

After starting the season 1-2, South Carolina has won six of seven - its only blemish in that span was a 24-17 loss to then-No. 13 LSU on Oct. 18.

The Gamecocks, who are in third place in the SEC East, are erasing the memory of last season's disappointing finish when they dropped their final five games. They wrap up the 2008 regular season on Nov. 29 at Clemson.

"We've had a pretty good little run thus far and we've got two big, big games left to finish up the season," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, we can finish strong and finish ranked when it's all said and done."

Spurrier led Florida to seven SEC championship games and a national title in 1996, but doesn't believe his return to Gainesville is a big deal. In his first trip to The Swamp as South Carolina coach in 2006, the Gators won 17-16 by blocking the Gamecocks' field goal attempt with eight seconds left. Florida went on to win the national championship that year.

"I think that's pretty old news. It'll just be the Gamecocks against the Gators," Spurrier said. "We've won a few lately and they've won a few lately."

Florida has been winning in convincing fashion lately.

Since their 31-30 loss to Mississippi on Sept. 27, the Gators have won their last five games by an average of 37.2 points - none were decided by fewer than 28.

Tebow has passed for 11 touchdowns and run for eight scores during Florida's winning streak, and leads an offense that ranks seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring (42.8 points per game).

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner will face a tough test this weekend, though, as the Gamecocks are third in the FBS in total defense (256.5 yards per game) and 10th in scoring defense (15.6 ppg).

Tebow had little trouble marching the ball down the field last season against South Carolina, as he threw for 304 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 120 yards and a career-high five TDs in Florida's 51-31 victory.

The Gators have won two straight games over the Gamecocks and 15 of 16 meetings since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992. Florida has also won all 11 games against the Gamecocks in Gainesville.

When Spurrier coached at Florida, he famously rotated his quarterbacks during the 1997 season, but he took that concept to a whole new level last week.

In South Carolina's 34-21 win over Arkansas last Saturday, Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia subbed for each other nearly every other play.

"I said we were going to play both," Spurrier said. "Why not just send them in the play?"

Smelley, a sophomore, was more productive at 9-of-19 for 148 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Garcia, who had started the previous two games, was 4-of-11 for 71 yards and an interception for South Carolina's lone turnover.

While he wouldn't reveal this week's gameplan, Spurrier did say that Smelley and Garcia would both see action.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
OREGON ST is 7-7 against the spread versus CALIFORNIA since 1992
OREGON ST is 7-7 straight up against CALIFORNIA since 1992
5 of 8 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
OREGON ST is 1-1 against the spread versus CALIFORNIA over the last 3 seasons 
OREGON ST is 1-1 straight up against CALIFORNIA over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at OREGON ST since 1992
CALIFORNIA is 4-3 against the spread versus OREGON ST since 1992
CALIFORNIA is 4-3 straight up against OREGON ST since 1992
4 of 4 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at OREGON ST over the last 3 seasons.
CALIFORNIA is 1-0 against the spread versus OREGON ST over the last 3 seasons 
CALIFORNIA is 1-0 straight up against OREGON ST over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[WR] Michael Calvin is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 1
[OL] Chris Guarnero out for the rest of season - Toe - 09/28/08
(!) [QB] Kevin Riley is downgraded to doubtful - Concussion - 11/05/08
[QB] Nate Longshore is expected to start - None - 11/05/08
[WR] Marvin Jones is out indefinitely - Knee - 09/23/08
[OG] Noris Malele missed last game, upgraded to probable. - Ankle - 11/05/
[OT] Chet Teofilo is downgraded to expected to miss remainder of the seaso
[OL] Mike Tepper missed last game %27?%27 - Pectoral - 11/01/08
[OL] Matt Laird missed last game %27?%27 - Shoulder - 11/01/08
[DE] Rulon Davis is upgraded to probable - Leg - 11/06/08
[DL] Cody Jones is downgraded to doubtful - Ankle - 11/06/08
[S] Sean Cattouse is %27?%27 - Concussion - 11/07/08
[K] David Seawright missed last game %27?%27 - Thigh - 11/02/08
[DL] Kendrick Payne out for season - Knee - 09/29/08
[RB] Patrick Fuller has transferred - None - 09/01/08
[WR] Kyle Brown is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Achilles - 1
[TE] Gabe Miller missed last game %27?%27 - Hamstring - 11/03/08
[OL] Brent McNeil is out indefinitely - Toe - 09/01/08
[OL] Jeremy Perry is out indefinitely. - Knee - 10/18/08
[C] Alex Linnenkohl injured last game, probable - Ankle - 11/03/08
[QB] Sean Canfield is expected to start - None - 11/06/08
(!) [QB] Lyle Moevao not expected to start, but may be available - Shoulde
[CB] Keenan Lewis injured last game, probable - Ankle - 11/03/08
[S] Bryan Payton has transferred - None - 09/01/08

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Posted: 11/11/08 3:53 PM

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