SEC East battle might now be two-horse race
It's evidently a two-team race in the SEC East Division with three conference games remaining, but South Carolina football coach Steve Spurrier is not ready for scoreboard-watching and says his players must remain focused on the next snap.
"We all have three games left. This is way too early to worry about that kind of stuff," Spurrier said Sunday. "You don't need to worry about it. You need to worry about your own performance, your own assignments, that kind of stuff."
South Carolina, ranked 14th in The Associated Press poll and 13th in the BCS standings, and 22nd-ranked Georgia both have 4-1 SEC records. But the Gamecocks have a half-game edge on the Bulldogs with a 45-42 victory in Athens on Sept. 10.
South Carolina's remaining SEC games: Saturday night at Tennessee (0-4 in the SEC), Nov. 5 at No. 8 Arkansas (2-1 SEC), Nov. 12 vs. Florida (2-3 SEC and in third place in the SEC East).
Georgia's remaining SEC games: Saturday vs. Florida in Jacksonville, Nov. 12 vs. Auburn (3-2 SEC), Nov. 19 vs. Kentucky (0-3 SEC).
Tennessee lost 37-6 at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday after managing a 6-6 tie with the Crimson Tide at halftime.
"They're a pretty good team," Spurrier said of the Volunteers. "They just lost their quarterback. They haven't probably played quite as good as they hoped, but they're certainly capable."
Highly regarded sophomore QB Tyler Bray remains out with a broken thumb suffered in a loss to Georgia on Oct. 8. Senior Matt Simms, son of former NFL quarterback Phil Simms, was 8 of 17 for 58 yards and one interception against Alabama. Bray is sidelined at least until a Nov. 19 game against Vanderbilt.
"Tyler Bray is a very good quarterback," Spurrier said. "I really liked watching him play against other people. He hit a bunch of passes against us also (in 2010).
"But it's sometimes what happens in football when you lose your quarterback. The Indianapolis Colts (with former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning injured), they're not faring well right now."
Of course, the Gamecocks have their own injury and quarterback issues. Star tailback Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury in a 14-12 victory at Mississippi State on Oct. 15. Sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw will make his fourth collegiate start this week as South Carolina plays its second game since fifth-year QB Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team.
Spurrier repeated that freshman Brandon Wilds will get the start at tailback. Spurrier said he hopes Kenny Miles (wrist) and Eric Baker (ankle) get some practice snaps and that walk-on Josh Hinch -- from Knoxville, Tenn., of all places -- also is in the tailback mix.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or Twitter.com/Sapakoff.