South Carolina leads the SEC East in at least one category — good health.
The Gamecocks, who moved up one spot to No. 13 in the Associated Press poll one day after beating Mississippi State 34-16 on Saturday, will get to enjoy that feeling this weekend during their second bye of the season. When they return from a long weekend break, though, they may not feel quite as good.
“Sometimes, I think we need to practice more physical, meaner, and we may need to do that before the Florida game next week,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday.
Spurrier is looking to sharpen his team’s edge as it heads into its final three games of the season with the SEC East title within sight. The Gamecocks (7-2, 5-2 SEC) remain one game behind Missouri and a tiebreaker behind Georgia in the race for the division title.
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The No. 9 Tigers (8-1, 4-1) and unranked Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2) each won Saturday after South Carolina’s game finished, with Missouri whipping Tennessee 31-3 and Georgia holding off a rally by Florida to win 23-20.
“Obviously, I was pulling for Florida, but Tennessee-Missouri, I thought Missouri would beat those guys and they did,” Spurrier said. “Whatever happens, happens. I am not a big rooter for other teams.
“All we can do is try to play our best, try to improve and try our best to beat Florida when they come in here.”
While Missouri, Georgia and Florida all have suffered serious depletions to their lineups due to injury, South Carolina has remained mostly injury-free and should be near full strength when it plays the Gators (4-4, 3-3) on Nov. 16 in Williams-Brice Stadium.
Sophomore running back Mike Davis, who topped 1,000 yards for the season against Mississippi State, suffered a slightly bruised shoulder making a leaping catch Saturday but is expected to be full strength in two weeks, Spurrier said.
Backup running back Brandon Wilds (elbow) and center Cody Waldrop (ankle) also are expected to return from long absences for the Florida game.
“Overall, the health of our team is pretty good at this time, and hopefully we are ready to make a good strong run the last few games,” Spurrier said.
If the Gamecocks beat the Gators, Georgia loses to either No. 7 Auburn or Kentucky and Missouri loses to Kentucky, Ole Miss or No. 11 Texas A&M, South Carolina will play for the SEC title.
“We are thankful right now that we are 7-2,” Spurrier said. “We have had our share of very good fortune this year, and we are certainly appreciative of that. Maybe (we have) a shot at a very special season.”