COLUMBIA — It's Clemson week. Well, sort of.
A late-season off-week, the second bye of the year, has given USC two weeks to prep for the Tigers.
But is that necessarily a good thing in the wake of a 50-point loss at Florida?
"No, it's not a good thing," junior end-linebacker Eric Norwood said moments after the 56-6 loss in the Swamp. "We want to be back on the field now. We've got to shake it and play ball."
Alas, too bad. Patience is required.
Getting to eight wins, and against their in-state rivals, would be big for the Gamecocks (7-4) in the bowl world. A victory would essentially lock USC into the Outback Bowl, marking the program's first New Year's Day game since the 2001 and 2002 Outback wins against Ohio State.
"I don't think there's a soul getting on the bus that isn't thinking about Clemson and what we need to do," said left tackle Jarriel King, a native of North Charleston.
The Gators (9-1, 7-1), who have two non-conference games left before the SEC title game, scored three times in about two minutes, 15 seconds late in the first quarter to blow past USC.
Two Chris Smelley interceptions directly led to or set up the first two scores. A botched throwback lateral on a kickoff return led to the third.
The deficit gave the Gamecocks virtually no shot.
"No one wants to have a game like that, but it happens," King said. "I don't think Florida is 50 points better than us. I don't think they're 21 points better than us, to tell you the truth. We gave them the first 21 points. That was all on us; it wasn't them."
The Gamecocks had conditioning Monday morning, but didn't practice. They'll return to the practice fields today, when the high temperature is supposed to be in the upper 40s.
Clemson, meanwhile, travels this week to play Virginia. The Tigers (5-5) need a win there and one against the Gamecocks to get seven wins and become bowl eligible.
"They haven't had a good year," Norwood said, "but they're a very capable team."
Stop the shuffle
One change might be on the way for the Clemson game. To the joy of a lot of fans, the awkward rotation of USC's quarterbacks could be done.
"There's a chance we'll play one," head coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "We'll announce all that later in the week."
Against Arkansas and Florida, Spurrier rotated Smelley and freshman Stephen Garcia on every play throughout the majority of the games.
In those games, Smelley was 22-for-43 for 240 yards, with a TD and two interceptions. Garcia was 10-for-24 for 99 yards, with a TD and two interceptions.
The low point of the day for the QBs against UF was Smelley's initial interception. On third-and-long, he rolled right in his own end zone. He lofted a pass into the flat that was gobbled up by UF's All-SEC linebacker, Brandon Spikes. Spikes jogged into the end zone to set the tone with the game's first six points.
"He should've sailed it over everybody's head into the sideline area," Spurrier said. "All he had to do was fire it past the line of scrimmage."
In case you missed it, one USC player's jaw dropped open when told the Gamecocks would try a throwback across the field on the kickoff following UF's second touchdown.
"I was like, 'Oh my God, we're going to run that?'" said Captain Munnerlyn, the No. 1 kickoff returner Saturday.
He watched in horror as Dion LeCorn sailed the lateral over Chris Hail's head. Florida recovered, returned the ball to the 1-foot line and scored three plays later to make it 21-0.
"I was like, 'We shouldn't have called that,'" he said. "But you've got to trust in your coach. He called the right play, it was set up perfectly, but we had a mistake on the return."
Ellis Johnson was recognized Monday as a finalist for a new defensive coordinator of the year award, given by a Web site you've probably never heard of (footballscoop.com) and probably shouldn't have heard of.
It was a rough week for Johnson's unit, which surrendered 519 yards, 346 of them on the ground, to the Gators.
Because of that, USC dropped from first to fourth in the league in total defense (280.4).
Johnson has incentives in his contract, saying if USC finishes in the top six in the SEC he gets a $10,000 bonus. He gets $10,000 more if the Gamecocks end up in the top three.
— Travis Haney