COLUMBIA -- It's November. South Carolina's football team is 6-2. What's new?
That's exactly what the Gamecocks would like to learn over the course of the next four weeks, beginning tonight against No. 17 Arkansas: Is something new?
"We have to finish strong," sophomore receiver Tori Gurley said. "We can't be like the old Carolina."
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier doesn't like talking about the program's history, recent or ancient. But, you know, since Gurley brought it up.
The Gamecocks were 6-2 in 2007. In the end, that was a 6-6 team that missed a bowl game altogether.
The Gamecocks were 6-2 in 2009. A big win against Clemson aside, they lost four of five to end the season.
"History kind of represents itself well that we haven't finished well in the past," receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said.
"But history doesn't have much to do with where we are right now."
This is now the third time in Spurrier's six seasons that the team is 6-2 entering the final third of the season.
Eight games down, four -- and maybe more -- to go.
"It's always interesting," Spurrier said. "After eight games, everybody in the country almost halfway assumes, 'Well, this is the kind of year they've had.' And it's really only two-thirds over with. The final third really determines what kind of year you've had."
To aid the Gamecocks' chances of rewriting history, November is a bit different in 2010.
The "orange crush" portion of the schedule, Florida and Clemson, has been watered down. Those teams are a combined 9-7 right now. But it's not as if that makes those gimmes.
Troy is sprinkled into the final month mix, only as a result of a schedule change a year ago.
And then there's Arkansas (6-2, 3-2 SEC), today's opponent. At least on paper, it's the toughest remaining opponent. The Razorbacks' two losses have come against Alabama and at Auburn, and they were in both of those games.
"This may be as good of a team as we've faced," Spurrier said. "Alabama didn't play very well the day they were in here. And we played near perfect. This will be a big challenge, to see if we can beat Arkansas this week."
Win or lose today, the likelihood is that the Gamecocks (6-2, 4-2) and Gators (5-3, 3-3) will decide the SEC East next week in The Swamp.
But Spurrier and players have worked all week to illustrate the importance of the Razorbacks.
"We need momentum going into Florida," senior captain Pat DiMarco said. "A big win here would not only help us in the rankings, but also help us with our team morale and be ready to go down in The Swamp and do what we need to do."
DiMarco's a pretty outstanding example of a player who understands the value of this month. He's a Floridian who grew up a Gators fan.
"It's in the back of all our minds, especially the senior guys, just knowing this is our last year," DiMarco said. "We've done something special so far. We're not going to let it slip out of our hands. We've got to keep pushing, keep driving so we can ultimately make our team goals and do what we want to do, play for the SEC."
Some cynics might have giggled when freshman Marcus Lattimore started talking in August about winning an SEC title.
"It's perfect. It's laying out perfect for us. It's right there for us," said Lattimore, who has 962 total yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games this season. "We've got to come out here and start it off by beating Arkansas on Saturday. We just can't have a letdown, man.
"We've got to come out every week and focus on the opponent. I think we can win the rest of them."
Spurrier Jr. said he tries not to put the brunt of history on his receivers. Instead, he works to narrow the players' focus. He wants them locking in on Arkansas -- and particularly how they're finishing plays and games, not just seasons.
South Carolina actually led 16-10 in Fayetteville, Ark., last season before things came crashing down around the Gamecocks, with Arkansas scoring the final 23 points of the game in a 33-16 Hogs' win.
USC's two losses this season, at Auburn and Kentucky, were both as a result of second-half implosions.
"There's been a focus to finish the second half," Spurrier Jr. said. "In the third quarter, fourth quarter, we need to play better."
So, here's South Carolina at 6-2 again. What are the Gamecocks going to do about it?
"We're 6-2. I think we were 6-2 last year," Spurrier said after last week's win against Tennessee. "We'll see if we can finish."
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