The path to Gamecock celebration
COLUMBIA -- This is Steve Spurrier's best South Carolina football team.
It is Urban Meyer's worst Florida team.
"This is the big stage," Spurrier said Tuesday, talking about the Saturday night showdown for the SEC East title at The Swamp in Gainesville, Fla. "One of the biggest stages in the nation."
The Head Ball Coach is 1-4 against his alma mater.
But 1-0 against Gator teams without Tim Tebow in uniform.
South Carolina will win, and it might not be close.
All on favored Florida.
The once elite Gators are in danger of slipping from back-to-back 13-1 seasons into a mediocre 4-4 SEC record.
A lot of Gators fans still prefer Spurrier's one national title and classy program to Meyer's two national titles and frequent player arrests.
Florida is 1-2 in SEC games at The Swamp this season.
So no wonder Meyer has called upon Florida fans to comply with "Blue Out" instructions. He wants the stadium "absolutely out of control" Saturday night.
"We have the best home-field advantage in America," Meyer told reporters in Gainesville. "Let's use it to the maximum. Unless people have something else to do, I'd like to see a couple of hundred thousand people here, inside (the stadium) and outside, wherever it is. Our guys are going to play really hard. Really hard."
Or maybe play in the Music City Bowl.
Good thing South Carolina can learn from its September experience before a crowd of 87,237 at Auburn, a 35-27 loss to the nation's No. 2 ranked team in which the Gamecocks had four turnovers in the fourth quarter.
And no need to plead for Florida support.
"I don't think you've ever had to get the Gator fans too fired up," said Spurrier, a former Florida quarterback, Heisman Trophy winner and head coach. "And you don't have to really get ours here fired up when it's an important game. They're naturally going to do that. But that's what coaches do. We certainly try to get the fans pumped up also, so I can understand that."
The Gamecocks, since barely losing to Auburn, have not lost a game in which freshman running back Marcus Lattimore has gone the entire way in good health.
He says he is fine.
Oh, the Arkansas thing. Yeah, that. Maybe it was a perfectly timed wake-up call for the Gamecocks and their coaching staff.
It already has made for greater emphasis this week on more physical practices, the right approach for a team that tilts more toward finesse than smash-mouth football.
An Arkansas debacle that was really worse than the 41-20 score indicates opened old late-season collapse wounds. But Spurrier has said all season he thinks this is his most "mature" team.
"Embarrassing," is how middle linebacker Josh Dickerson described the Razorbacks onslaught.
Accountability is back atop the locker room agenda, thanks to blocking and tackling lessons flown in from Fayetteville.
South Carolina in its last big-stage game manhandled Alabama for most of four quarters, winning 35-21 against a team that throttled Florida, 31-6.
The Gamecocks were a 15-point underdog last November and played Florida almost evenly until Tebow's fourth-quarter touchdown run in a 24-14 Gators win.
Since then, nine -- count 'em nine -- Florida players were selected in the 2010 NFL draft, including first-round picks Tebow, Joe Haden and Maurkice Pouncey and second-round picks Carlos Dunlap (Fort Dorchester High School), Jermaine Cunningham and Brandon Spikes.
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks added Lattimore, the most dangerous running back in the SEC.
Rodney Paulk knows Meyer and Co. will try to take advantage of USC giddiness.
"It's a big game and emotions are going to be high," South Carolina's junior middle linebacker said. "It's all about controlling them."
Except after the SEC East title-clinching victory.
Then the Gamecocks can get absolutely out of control.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at email@example.com or 937-5593.