It did not take South Carolina long to get over its first loss of the season, a 35-27 decision to Auburn on the road. In addition to hosting top-ranked and defending national champion Alabama in a crucial game if it is to contend for the Southeastern Conference East Division title, Carolina will do so in front of a nationally televised crowd on CBS.
ESPN has also sent its "Game Day" crew to town, making Columbia the place to be on Saturday.
USC coach Steve Spurrier ended speculation he started following the Gamecocks loss to Auburn as to who his starting quarterback would be by saying redshirt junior Stephen Garcia would continue serving in that capacity.
Garcia has posted stellar passing numbers this season, but he has also been guilty of committing turnovers at inopportune times.
He has started every game for Carolina in the last two seasons and was in the midst of one of his best passing games against Auburn. But, with USC holding a 27-21 lead entering the fourth quarter, he fumbled twice to allow the Tigers to claim a comeback victory.
Spurrier likes the makeup of freshman Connor Shaw, who relieved Garcia in the latter part of the fourth quarter. Although Shaw drove the team in two drives, he suffered two interceptions.
The Gamecocks are probably in their best health of the season, as only strong safety DeVonte Holloman was injured against Auburn. He suffered a mild concussion and is expected to be ready for the Alabama game. The team received a blow when linebacker Shaq Wilson reinjured his hamstring, and he is more than likely done for the season.
--After displaying a much-improved running game through its first three games, South Carolina took a step back against Auburn, rushing 28 times for 79 yards. Although he scored a touchdown, rookie sensation Marcus Lattimore was also held in check, rushing 14 times for 33 yards.
--The defense, which allowed an average of 69 rushing yards in its first three games, was gashed for 334 by Auburn. That is not a good sign with a physical Alabama team looming on the horizon.
--The big and physical wide receiver corps continues to be a team strength. With sophomores Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley leading the way, the group caught 19 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns against Auburn. Jeffery was the standout with eight catches for 192 yards and two scores. He leads the nation in receiving yards with 498 and is third in receptions with 27.
SEASON SUMMARY: The Gamecocks got off to a fast start, posting impressive victories over Southern Mississippi and Georgia. The team was sluggish in a win over FCS member Furman before losing a sixth straight conference road game against Auburn in a contest in which it held the advantage for most of the game. With the exception of the Auburn game, the Gamecocks have displayed an improved ability to run the football while utilizing a talented receiving corps. The defense had been outstanding until facing Auburn, allowing only 69 yards rushing per encounter. It was gashed by the Tigers, however, who piled up 492 yards of total offense. If the Gamecocks are to return to their winning ways, quarterback Stephen Garcia must cut down on key turnovers and the defense must put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
LOOKING AHEAD: The team must regroup quickly with a home game against Alabama up next. Carolina must quickly revamp its run defense against the powerful Crimson Tide. After road games against Kentucky and Vanderbilt and a home contest against Tennessee, the Gamecocks then face Arkansas and Florida. Following a non-conference game against Troy, it closes the campaign with a road game against in-state rival Clemson.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We plan on him starting against Alabama. He actually played three quarters pretty well, then obviously the two fumbles were pretty bad plays. Can he stop fumbling? We're going to give him a chance to stop fumbling. He hasn't thrown a lot of picks this year, so other than the fumbles, he's played pretty decently." -- Coach Steve Spurrier on QB Stephen Garcia, following practice Tuesday
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The offense has been strong for most of the season, but it gave up four turnovers in its latest game against Auburn and six in its last two contests. QB Stephen Garcia must take control of the offense and limit the mistakes if the team is to contend for the league title. Freshman RB Marcus Lattimore, sophomore WR Alshon Jeffery, sophomore C T. J. Johnson and junior G Rokevious Watkins have been the standouts.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Defensively, the Gamecocks had been dominant until facing Auburn. They need to again tighten up against the run and perform the way they did in the first three games. They also need to find a way to force more turnovers. Senior DE Cliff Matthews, considered the squad's top player, has underperformed and must become the leader on the field that was expected prior to the start of the season. USC has made a change at free safety, where D.J. Swearinger will start ahead of Akeem Auguste. Holloman appears ready to return at boundary safety.
ROSTER REPORT: --Sophomore SS DeVonte Holloman suffered a mild concussion in the second half against Auburn, but he is expected to be ready when the Gamecocks host Alabama.
--Junior LB Shaq Wilson reinjured a hamstring that kept him out of action until the Gamecocks faced Auburn. He will now likely be redshirted.