Traditional Rivalries Dot SEC Slate

FAYETTEVILLE -- South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier deflected a question Wednesday about whether he was worried that the Gamecocks might get left out of the bowl equation despite their six wins.

"Just trying to beat Clemson this week is plenty of motivation for South Carolina," Spurrier said. "I'm writing down these ball plays to use against Clemson. That bowl stuff can wait."

Spurrier pointed out that Clemson has beaten the Gamecocks eight times in the last nine years and leads the series rivalry by a lot (63-36-4).

"This is our in-state rivalry and we're way behind," Spurrier said. "We need to start beating these guys."

Not that it will be easy at Clemson on Saturday.

"Clemson beat Georgia Tech soundly and may be the best team in the ACC," Spurrier said. "I think they're fifth in the nation in total defense. But we're hoping the breaks will go our way. We know what this game means."

Spurrier acknowledged that Saturday's game is big for recruiting purposes.

"But I'm not quitting if we lose the game," he said.



KENTUCKY A BIG SURPRISE

Rather quietly, Kentucky has won its last four games to advance to 7-4 for the season and 4-3 in the SEC East.

The Wildcats meet Tennessee, also 4-3 in league play, in Knoxville at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in the Lincoln Financial Sports TV game.

"It's a very big game for the both of us, because the winner will be in sole possession of second place in the SEC East," Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said.

Vols coach Phil Fulmer took heart from the fact that quarterback Erik Ainge played well in UT's win at Vanderbilt last week.

"Erik's returning (from injury) has really helped our offense," Fulmer said.

A sidelight of the game is that Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders had the same title at UT for years until being replaced by David Cutcliffe after last season.

"I guess it will be strange for both of us," Fulmer said. "Randy is certainly a great friend and an outstanding coach, but this is a business and I think things have turned out well for everybody."

Brooks sounded more concerned about Kentucky's defense than any coaching matters.

"To say we've kind of struggled on defense is being kind," Brooks said. "Our defense has not played up to my expectations. We'll have to rise up against Ainge and Company."



NEW QUARTERBACKS IN EGG BOWL?

When Ole Miss plays host to Mississippi State at 1 p.m. Saturday, there may be a game of musical chairs at quarterback.

Bulldogs coach Sylvester Croom said Wednesday, "Our biggest adjustment is losing Michael Henig at quarterback."

Henig directed MSU to its 24-16 win over Alabama and played acceptably against Arkansas until reinjuring his shoulder. He was slammed to the ground with such force by a Razorback that one of the screws from his previous collarbone repair came loose.

Omar Conner finished the game at QB for the Bulldogs and completed 6-of-9 passes for 78 yards, with one costly interception (by Chris Houston) late in the game. Croom commended Conner for his play.

While Conner presumably will guide MSU on Saturday, Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron plans to start Brent Schaeffer at quarterback, but with 6-foot-4 junior Seth Adams waiting in the wings.

"If Brent plays well, he'll stay there," Orgeron said. "But we may play Seth, too. I'll just go with the feel of the game."

Both teams are 3-8 for the season and 1-6 in the SEC, but both played well last week. Mississippi State competed to the end in a 28-14 loss to Arkansas, while Ole Miss led No. 9 LSU 20-7 in the second half before falling 23-20 in overtime.



MUTUAL ADMIRATION

Arkansas coach Houston Nutt and LSU coach Les Miles took turns complimenting each other's team on Wednesday.

"I can see why LSU has the No. 1 defense in the country," Nutt said.

Miles echoed, "I can see why Arkansas has won 10 games in a row."



RICHT ON RIVALRIES

Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked to compare the Georgia Tech-Georgia rivalry (2:30 p.m. Saturday renewal in Athens, Ga.) with Florida-Florida State (also on Saturday, in Tallahassee, Fla.), which he experienced as a Florida State offensive coordinator.

"At Florida State we had Florida but we also played Miami," Richt recalled. "In the state of Georgia, it's just us and Georgia Tech. So that's a little bit unique."

Richt said the Bulldogs are rested following their first open date after playing 11 straight weeks.




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