Troy vs. South Carolina: Storylines

For the South Carolina football team, history has already been made. Thanks to a 36-14 win over Florida, the Gamecocks have captured their first SEC East title. But two games stand between them and Atlanta, starting with this weekend's contest against the Troy Trojans. Troy will bring a scrappy club from the state of Alabama with a record of 5-4 on the season.

It will certainly be a tale of two weeks for the Carolina football team over their next two contests, as they go from a home game against Troy to the always intense rivalry game with the Clemson Tigers the weekend after Thanksgiving.

Although this weekend will likely be more subdued with USC being favored over Troy in Columbia, there is still no doubt that Coach Steve Spurrier and the rest of the staff are taking this game seriously. Despite the fact Troy will be outmatched in athletic ability at most every position on Saturday afternoon, it is a team capable of making noise, as they took BCS #10 ranked Oklahoma State to the brink before falling 41-38 on September 11th.

On December 4th, USC will play in their first ever SEC Championship game against the Auburn Tigers, but for now, the Gamecocks will concentrate on their next two ballgames before they play for it all in Atlanta.

Finishing strong

While last week's win against Florida did a lot for the Gamecocks, one of the most important things it did was give them a win in November, an area in which they have consistently struggled with Spurrier at the helm. With so many bad omens of Novembers and seasons past in the rear view mirror due to that game, it will be important for USC to continue the momentum against Troy and Clemson before heading to Atlanta.

But with a nucleus of young talent led by all-star running back Marcus Lattimore and a revived defense, the Head Ball Coach and his team are confident they can continue this run of unprecedented success.

"We're in pretty good position right now," said Spurrier. "Our team is very healthy. We just have to finish. We have to finish strongly and see what else we can accomplish this year. Our team has set a lot of high goals. Most of them are still in front of us, so we'll see how it goes for these last three games. But we're looking forward to hopefully a full house here Saturday."

The South Carolina defense will face a difficult task in containing the talented Troy offense that is averaging 450 yards of offense per game, to go along with 33.2 points per contest.

Football and athletic department succeeding hand in hand

The year in athletics only continues to get better for South Carolina after last Saturday's win in Gainesville that won a football championship of any kind for the first time since 1969. It all began with the basketball team's upset of then No. 1 ranked Kentucky, and was followed up this summer with a national title in baseball.

Gamecocks fans have long been supportive of their football program despite its struggles, and the fan base has only continued to grow in excitement since the hiring of Steve Spurrier. Although he has now brought the football program to new heights and will be forever honored by USC because of it, he is quick to credit others for helping him build the success that has become Carolina football.

"But, again, getting back a little but, the reason we've been fortunate enough to win the East is the ability to recruit Marcus Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery, Stephon Gilmore and all these other guys," said Spurrier. "The reason we've been able to do it now has been our facility improvement. It's been tremendous the last five years. I remember when Eric Hyman came, he made a statement that's so true – he said it's expensive to build new facilities, but it's more expensive not to. That's just the way life is. When you want to compete at the highest level, you have to jump in there and get your facilities just as good or better as your competition. That's where we are right now. But just the facility improvement overall is what gives you a chance to compete at the highest level. We have a few more renovations and improvements to do. I think our fans are starting to understand the importance of that."

With talk of possible stadium expansion as well as new practice fields to go along with the farmer's market renovation in the future, it is only a matter of time until Carolina continues to expand their facilities that already rank among the nation's best.

The youth movement

40 carries, 212 yards. Those were the gaudy statistics put up by freshman running back Marcus Lattimore in the Swamp last weekend as he propelled the Gamecocks to another big victory. Young Mr. Lattimore has carried USC this season during their historic run to the East championship and a 7-3 record.

However, he isn't the only underclassman exceeding expectations and taking Carolina football to new heights. There are also players like sophomore wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has emerged as one of the nation's best, and fellow sophomore wideout Tori Gurley.

But those leaders aren't alone, as guys like sophomores Stephon Gilmore and Devonte Holloman, as well as defensive end Devin Taylor, hang tough for the defense.

With so much young talent at so many key positions, it is no wonder the future of USC football looks as bright as it ever has, and may be headed to unprecedented success over the next few seasons. Coach Spurrier echoed that sentiment as he hopes these players will lay the foundation for a successful tradition at South Carolina.

"Well, you hope it is," said Spurrier. "But we don't know. We don't know for sure. We'll do our best to try to maintain whatever we have going when the season has ended. But as we all know, you're usually about as good as your last game, so we're pushing toward the game this week and then we'll push for the next one and the next one. It's neat to accomplish something for the first time, but there are some other achievements still out there that we're shooting for. We're still shooting."

Guarding against the upset

When the Troy Trojans went into Stillwater, Oklahoma on September 11th, the Cowboy fans in that football stadium no doubt expected their OSU team to roll over the Trojans en route to an easy nonconference win. But that wasn't the case, as Troy battled to the very end before finally falling 41-38.

With so many good feelings surrounding the football program right now, it could all come crashing down if the Gamecocks get complacent on Saturday afternoon and allow Troy to hang around. Not to mention USC also has a chance to move their record in November above .500 before they head to Clemson.

As Coach Spurrier said Tuesday, it's not necessarily about proving anything by beating Troy like everyone expects, but rather it is about keeping his team playing at a high level week in and week out.

"Certainly, we'd like to play at a high level every time we go out," said Spurrier. "This Troy team is a pretty good team. Oklahoma State beat them 41-38 earlier the year. They've got a good offense. Statistically, they've probably got a better offense than Florida has, statistically. Of course, they don't play competition like Florida does and so forth. They are a good passing team. We're going to have our hands full. We've got to defend, we've got to rush the passer and get them off the field and things like that. This will be the test for us, our defensive guys, because they are a good passing team. Definitely they've struggled a little bit here and there, but they are certainly capable of coming in here and upsetting us."

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