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COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is worried about facing South Alabama and believes his Gamecocks should be, too.
On paper, this one between the Southeastern Conference power and the Sun Belt team is a huge mismatch. But with South Carolina's recent problems, Spurrier is wary of what could happen against the Jaguars (6-4) on Saturday.
"We're not good enough to think we can show up and roll over people," he said. "We know that we have struggled a lot this year and we've got to really play our best if we're going to give ourselves a chance to win."
The Gamecocks (5-5) have had many chances at success this season, but found ways to stumble. South Carolina lost three all but certain wins to Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee with fourth-quarter collapses where it squandered double-digit leads.
The Gamecocks enter with hope, though, from last week's reversal of fortune at Florida. South Carolina got a late blocked punt and a bobbled pitch touchdown to tie the Gators at the end of regulation before Dylan Thompson's game-winning 4-yard TD run in overtime after the defense held Florida to a field goal in a 23-20 win.
The result moved the Gamecocks closer to the postseason, something South Alabama took care of last week with a 24-20 win over Texas State.
Jaguars coach Joey Jones doesn't see a bumbling South Carolina team despite finishing 3-5 in the SEC.
"It's a typical SEC team, they've lost a lot of close games and could very easily be a lot better from a record standpoint," Jones said. "I always look at players and teams rather than records, and their team is certainly has a bunch of talent."
And Spurrier knows how to use that talent against teams his club is supposed to beat. Spurrier is 51-0 all-time against opponents from outside the Bowl Championship Subdivision qualifying leagues or Power Five conferences.
South Alabama will receive $900,000 for the visit.
Things to watch for when South Carolina faces South Alabama:
SENIOR DAY: It's a final home farewell for quarterback Dylan Thompson, who is 412 yards shy of the school's single-season record for passing yards. Thompson had his moments before as Connor Shaw's backup — winning at Clemson in 2012 and throwing the game-winning TD in the Outback Bowl that same season — but has been a steady performer in his lone year as starter.
JUNIOR DAY: Among the handful of juniors who'll be honored for their final game is star tailback Mike Davis, who is sixth in the Southeastern Conference with 875 yards. Davis had talked of jumping to the NFL before this season. He ran for 1,183 yards a year ago and can become only the second player in school history with multiple years of cracking the 1,000-yard barrier. Davis has not said for sure he's leaving.
FACING THE SEC: South Alabama has played SEC opponents in each of the past three seasons. The school, which joined the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2011, lost to Mississippi State in 2012, to Tennessee a year ago and to the Bulldogs again earlier this year. This is the first time South Alabama has ever played the Gamecocks.
PASS RUSH: The Gamecocks had been the SEC's worst in sacks and generating a pass rush this season. That changed a week ago in a 23-20 overtime win at Florida. They held the Gators to 278 yards, a season best by South Carolina. The Gamecocks two sacks last week equaled their total of the previous four games.
LOOKING AHEAD: While Spurrier and the Gamecocks are focused on South Alabama, South Carolina fans have their minds on next week and rival Clemson. Spurrier stirred up Tiger fans last week when he asked if that "Upstate school" had lost at Georgia Tech (it did). Spurrier said he wasn't picking at Clemson and that the Gamecocks had more than enough issues of their own to worry about.