Gamecocks in a groove, and Top 25

COLUMBIA --- South Carolina's back in the national rankings. Its stay there, though, could be as brief as the last one.


South Carolina (7-3, 4-3 Southeastern Conference) won for the sixth time in seven games with a 34-21 win over Arkansas -- a victory that moved it to No. 24 in the latest Associated Press college football poll.

That's where the Gamecocks were in September after winning their opener over North Carolina State, a game that filled them with confidence for a Thursday night showcase at Vanderbilt.

But the Commodores won 24-17 as South Carolina, ousting the Gamecocks from the poll.

This week is a visit to No. 3 Florida, and the tantalizing chance for former Gators coach Steve Spurrier to derail his old team's drive for a second national title in three seasons.

Spurrier said the spotlight that followed his return there two years ago -- a dramatic 17-16 Florida win settled on a blocked Gamecocks field goal try at the end -- won't be nearly as glaring this time around.

"I think that's pretty old news. It'll just be the Gamecocks against the Gators," Spurrier said Sunday. "We've won a few lately and they've won a few lately."

The way Florida has been winning has to concern Spurrier.

Since losing to Ole Miss 31-30 at home Sept. 27, the Gators have crushed their next five opponents by an average margin of victory of more than 37 points a game.

That's what they did to the Gamecocks a year ago. Tim Tebow was on his way to the Heisman Trophy and helped account for all seven of the Gators' touchdowns in a 51-31 victory.

The difference is Tebow and the Gators face a South Carolina defense ranked No. 1 in the SEC, and eager to settle scores.

They did it to Tennessee two games ago, holding the Vols to 34 rushing yards and 6 points. Last weekend, Arkansas gained just 54 yards on the ground, nearly 500 fewer than it rushed for in a 2007 win over South Carolina.

While a seventh win is nice for the bowl rÃsumÃ, "we're really trying to work on finishing the season out strong like coach Spurrier's been preaching to us around here for the last couple of years," said linebacker Eric Norwood, who had three of South Carolina's six sacks against Arkansas.

Spurrier might have some new offensive wrinkles to bring to his old offensive laboratory. He shuffled quarterbacks Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia nearly every snap. Both threw TD passes and did enough to keep the Gamecocks moving. Spurrier said Smelley and Garcia would see action.

Besides a visit to Florida, where South Carolina has never won in 11 tries, it has the season-ending game against Clemson.

"We've had a pretty good little run thus far and we've got two big, big games left to finish up the season," Spurrier said. "Hopefully, we can finish strong and finish ranked."



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