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Spurrier focused on Alabama, not milestone

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier says he can't think about individual honors, not with No. 1 Alabama coming to town.

Spurrier's next Southeastern Conference win would be his 107th. That would move him out a tie for second with Ole Miss great Johnny Vaught. Alabama icon Paul "Bear" Bryant is the conference's all-time leader with 159 league wins.

But Spurrier says the 19th-ranked Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 SEC) will have their hands full on Saturday against the Crimson Tide and Nick Saban, Alabama's current national championship coach. Alabama (5-0, 2-0) has won 19 straight games, including last week's 31-6 victory over Florida.

"We're not talking about or worrying about that right now," Spurrier said Tuesday. "Hopefully, we can win another conference game somewhere as we go through."

For the 19th-ranked Gamecocks, it will be their biggest test of the year. South Carolina has never beaten an opponent ranked higher than No. 4 — the Gamecocks topped fourth-ranked Ole Miss 16-10 last season — and Spurrier is hopeful the team can find the effort to hang with the defending national champions.

"The opportunity's there," Spurrier said.

Spurrier, in his 18th SEC season between Florida and the Gamecocks, has steadily pushed himself up among the league's most celebrated coaching names since returning to the league with South Carolina in 2005.

The Gamecocks have won 19 SEC games under Spurrier. They posted just 36 league wins in 13 SEC seasons before he took over.

Spurrier broke a tie for third with Georgia great Vince Dooley when South Carolina upset the Bulldogs 17-6 on Sept. 11. Now he has a chance to break the tie with Ole Miss' Johnny Vaught for No. 2.

He could have had his milestone win already, but the Gamecocks squandered a 20-7 lead at Auburn and lost 35-27 in their last game on Sept. 25. Spurrier said South Carolina used the bye week to concentrate on fundamentals and correct the mistakes that proved costly against Auburn.

"You can sense the sense of urgency in everybody," Gamecocks safety DeVonte Holloman said. "We know it's a big game and everybody's trying to do the right thing."

For offensive-minded Spurrier, that means matching wits with Saban, perhaps the SEC's foremost defensive authority. The two faced off twice when Spurrier was at Florida and Saban at LSU in 2000 and 2001, the Gators pounding the Tigers 41-9 and 44-15.

Saban's Crimson Tide took a 20-6 win over Spurrier and the Gamecocks last fall.

"We looked like we were a lot smarter than he was the first two games," Spurrier said. "But recently, he was a lot smarter than I was last year, let's put it that way. Who knows who's going to be the smartest this year?"

Spurrier and Saban share a friendship and respect as winning coaches. Spurrier even hitched a ride on the LSU plane with Saban once when both were at the East-West Shrine Game.

Saban joked before the teams met last year that LSU fans about "blew up the Gator plane up in Baton Rouge when it was waiting there to pick (Spurrier) up and take him home," Alabama's coach said.

Spurrier's exacting ways, especially with quarterbacks, don't fit all players. Against Auburn, Spurrier pulled starter Stephen Garcia down the stretch after he fumbled twice. Freshman Connor Shaw played the Gamecocks final two series when they needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie. Both drives ended with interceptions.

Garcia is expected to start Saturday.

"It's a unique way of handling quarterbacks," Alabama passer Greg McElroy said. "It's a way that I know a lot of guys don't like to do it, but coach (Spurrier) obviously gets the most out of his guys."

Yet Spurrier's used his style to amass the second most SEC victories ever.

"Again, that's an individual thing that, years from now, maybe it'll be fun to look back at," Spurrier said. "But right now, it's not a big deal."

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AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to this report.

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