South Carolina will still be a very difficult team to beat this season, even though star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a serious leg injury during Saturday's victory over Tennessee.
Here is the latest news on Lattimore's injury, via Brian VanOchten of 99.1 WDGM in Tuscaloosa:
The news on South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is awful: Broken femur and all four knee ligaments torn. Such a shame.— Brian VanOchten (@BrianVanOchten) October 28, 2012
Lattimore's absence will hurt South Carolina's offense and make it less balanced, but quarterback Connor Shaw is capable of making enough throws to win games, and he is also the team's second-leading rusher.
Shaw has completed 66.3 percent of his passes this year and has thrown for almost as many yards as he did last year (1,448) with three regular-season games still to play. He's also thrown 12 touchdowns passes with just five interceptions.
He will give the Gamecocks a chance to finish the season strong, but the real strength of the team throughout the year has been its defense.
South Carolina is allowing just 18.3 points per game this year, and Steve Spurrier's defense is ranked fifth in the country (No. 1 in SEC) in sacks.
Future first-round pick Jadeveon Clowney has been a star at defensive end this season for the Gamecocks and leads the team with 8.5 sacks, which also ranks tied for fifth best in the country.
South Carolina has finished the toughest part of its schedule with an overall record of 7-2 and has just three regular-season games remaining. The Gamecocks' next opponent is a struggling Arkansas team. Then they finish the season with matchups against Wofford and in-state rival Clemson.
Clemson is the only quality opponent that South Carolina has left on its schedule, but there's no reason why the Gamecocks should finish worse than 10-2 heading into a possible SEC Championship Game.
South Carolina will miss Lattimore, but Spurrier's team is still capable of winning its final three games because of a strong defense and a quarterback that can make a difference in the passing and running games.