Marcus Lattimore, RB
Lattimore has given the offense a new dimension. The 6-foot, 218-pound freshman’s running style has led to a team-high 554 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. And he’s shown his versatility by catching 12 passes for 214 yards and two scores. If he had not injured his ankle against Kentucky early in the second half, he likely would have led the Gamecocks to another victory.
Devin Taylor, DE
Taylor has stepped up his level of play to match his size. At 6-7 and 249 pounds, the sophomore defensive end has kept the pressure on opposing quarterbacks. With a team-high 4.5 sacks, he has helped the defense become No. 2 nationally in sacks. He also has 24 tackles, including seven for loss, as well as seven quarterback hurries and two pass breakups.
This is easy: USC defeated a No. 1 team for the first time when it beat Alabama 35-21 on Oct. 9. The victory snapped the Tide’s 19-game winning streak and vaulted the Gamecocks into the SEC East lead and No. 10 in the polls.
This is just as easy: One week after knocking off Alabama, the Gamecocks lost 31-28 to a .500 Kentucky team, after leading by 18 points at halftime. Kentucky scored with 1:15 to play, and USC had a chance to tie or win with 11 seconds to play but threw an interception in the end zone.
Alshon Jeffery made a catch against Alabama that sealed the win but also showed the nation how special he is. With an Alabama defender tugging on his jersey, he made a one-handed circus grab, broke away and took the ball down to the Tide 6 for a 45-yard gain. The play set up USC’s final touchdown.
This one also involved a great receiver. But Kentucky’s Randall Cobb had no USC defender anywhere near him when he caught a 24-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the Wildcats’ win because of a busted coverage.
What do you do if you’re chasing a bad snap inside your own 5-yard line with your back to the defenders? If you’re Stephen Garcia, you throw the football through the end zone off the goal post for a safety.
Josh Dickerson has made his presence felt at linebacker with the loss of Shaq Wilson to a hamstring injury. The 6-1, 225-pound senior has 28 tackles, tied for third on the team, while calling the defenses. He made a career-high nine tackles against Auburn.
Spencer Lanning continues to get the job done, with the numbers spotlighting the consistency of the senior punter and placekicker. He’s averaging 45.7 yards on 19 punts, with five inside the 20-yard line. He is 24-of-25 on extra points and 4-of-5 in field-goal attempts, with the only miss coming from 51 yards. He also kicked a career-long 51-yarder against Furman.
BEST HEAT HANDLER
Garcia has been through a lot at USC, but he continues to develop as a player and person. Despite being challenged by Spurrier over the offseason and being benched down the stretch in the Auburn loss, Garcia has completed 93-of-133 passes for 1,326 yards and 10 touchdowns with a passer-efficiency rating (171.0) that is fifth-best in the nation. He has dealt with success and failure in postgame settings with straight-forwardness and good humor.
TOP OFF-FIELD MOMENT
Moving ESPN’s “College GameDay” from the State Fairgrounds to the Horseshoe provided a postcard setting for the broadcast and started a picture-perfect day against Alabama.
WHO WOULD HAVE THOUGHT
The SEC East would be so mediocre? At 2-2, USC leads the division and remains in the driver’s seat as long as it keeps winning. It’s hard to believe that Florida and Georgia both are 2-3 and Tennessee has yet to win a conference game.
QUINTESSENTIAL SPURRIER MOMENT
It’s impossible to predict what Steve Spurrier might say in any press conference, but he got a big laugh when he announced that he had given himself a game ball after the Alabama win. Spurrier told his players before the game to give fate a chance, and when one of them said afterwards to give fate a game ball, Spurrier decided to accept it himself on behalf of fate.