COLUMBIA – Kelcy Quarles has dinner plans Saturday night, and he’ll have plenty of company.
South Carolina’s junior defensive tackle will gather with his fellow defensive linemen at position coach Deke Adams’ house. They’ll settle in just before 7 p.m., watching as Missouri takes the field at Ole Miss, knowing a Rebels win would clinch an SEC East title for the Gamecocks.
“He’s cooking on the grill,” Quarles said of Adams this week. “We’re going to eat up all his food and watch the game.”
The SEC East potentially could be on the line Saturday. It will be impossible for the Gamecocks to ignore. Yet, before they can find a television set, there’s business to attend.
Nothing would damper celebrating a berth in the SEC Championship Game like licking wounds after a shocking, seismic upset.
South Carolina hosts Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium in what will be the first meeting among the two schools. USC coach Steve Spurrier said his team is not overlooking the Chanticleers — not with its SEC schedule concluded, not with a division title potentially on the line elsewhere, not with the program’s rivalry against Clemson taking center stage next week.
Spurrier said there’s reason to believe Coastal Carolina poses a threat.
“Coastal is setting all kinds of records in the Big South Conference — points, third-down conversions, red-zone scoring,” Spurrier said. “All kinds of stuff offensively.”
Coastal Carolina (10-1) leads the Big South with 45.5 points per game. It has the conference’s top running back in Lorenzo Taliaferro, who’s fifth among Football Championship Subdivision players with 1,466 rushing yards and second with 23 rushing touchdowns.
Yet, the two most important words in Spurrier’s description remain “Big South.”
A team from that league isn’t supposed to waltz into an SEC stadium and knock off a nationally ranked program. The Gamecocks know that. They’re 34.5-point favorites Saturday, but players will try to avoid human nature as kickoff approaches.
“We try to take every week as the same, don’t look forward to the week after,” junior cornerback Victor Hampton said. “Coach Spurrier always tells us the next game is the most important game of our life. That’s how we’re going to try to approach Coastal.
“This is an in-state team, so we don’t want them to have bragging rights on us going back to Myrtle Beach. So we’re definitely going to come prepared.”
Occasionally, upsets happen. College football is built partially on those spontaneous shockers. None are more famous than Sept. 1, 2007, when Appalachian State knocked off Michigan in the Big House.
USC offensive line coach Shawn Elliott held the same position at Appalachian State on that day. He learned a lesson, just as Michigan did. It’s a warning he’s given USC players this week, hoping they avoid Michigan’s downfall.
“Every contest, you always have an opportunity to become ‘that team,’” Elliott said. “From where I’ve come from, I’ve seen it firsthand. I know the excitement an FCS opponent gets up for an FBS opponent. I know the feeling. I know the feeling as coaches.
I think everybody wants to go in there and prove a point and try to knock off the big dog, so to speak. Not that we’re the big dog, but I’ve been on the other side. So I’ve warned them, and I’ve talked about how they’re going to come out and play us. We better be ready for a fight because they’re a good football team.”