Gamecocks' three steps to winning the SEC East

November 11, 2013 

USC's head coach Steve Spurrier at the end of the second half of the game. USC faces off against Mississippi State at Williams-Brice Stadium, Saturday for homecoming.

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com

The SEC East race returns to center stage on Saturday with two games that will affect South Carolina’s plans for Dec. 7, the day of the SEC championship game. The final key game must wait a week — or two.

GAME 1

SATURDAY NIGHT: Florida (4-5 overall, 3-4 SEC) at South Carolina (7-2, 5-2), 7 p.m., ESPN2

THE LOWDOWN: The No. 11 Gamecocks, who will be playing their final conference game of the season, must beat the Gators to have any chance to win the division. At the moment, that doesn’t look difficult. Vanderbilt handed Florida its fourth straight loss, and the Gators are reeling. South Carolina’s concern is that it’s facing a desperate team that could be an early spark away from playing well. Last season, South Carolina turned the ball over four times against Florida. It can’t do that again, even against this Gator group.

FAVORITE: South Carolina by 13.5

GAME 2

SATURDAY AFTERNOON: Georgia (6-3, 4-2) at Auburn (9-1, 5-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS

THE LOWDOWN: South Carolina needs Auburn to hand Georgia its third SEC loss and make the Bulldogs’ tie-breaker edge over the Gamecocks meaningless. After Saturday, the only chance for No. 25 Georgia to lose an SEC game is against Kentucky on Nov. 23. The No. 7 Tigers lead the SEC in rushing with 320 yards per game and have run the ball on 86.1 percent of their snaps the past two weeks. Georgia has the fourth-best run defense in the conference (126 ypg allowed) but hasn’t faced a running game like Auburn’s.

FAVORITE: Auburn by 3.5

GAME 3

NOV. 23: Missouri (9-1, 5-1) at Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3)

THE LOWDOWN: No matter what happens this weekend, the Gamecocks will not lead the division next week. That distinction will belong to the No. 9 Tigers, who have a bye this weekend. The good news for South Carolina is that it owns the tie-breaker against Missouri, so if Georgia loses to Auburn and South Carolina beats Florida, the Gamecocks will go to the SEC championship game if the Tigers lose to the Rebels on Nov. 23 or to No. 10 Texas A&M on Nov. 30 in their final regular season game.

Josh Kendall

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