South Carolina pulled off a mega-win as it defeated then-No. 5 Missouri on Saturday, setting the Gamecocks up for a run at the SEC East title.
While the Missouri Tigers are the keepers of their own destiny, the Gamecocks can quickly gain ground by winning football games and Missouri slipping up in its final four games.
The position for a run is set, but one more loss will finish the Gamecocks' chances at the division. The race is still wide open and South Carolina now has the upper hand over Missouri if a tiebreaker is needed.
South Carolina is having a roller-coaster season, as the team has looked solid at times and dismal at others. However, an SEC East title is still within reach.
Here are three adjustments head coach Steve Spurrier needs to make to avoid blowing a chance at the SEC East title.
1. Believe in Connor Shaw
Quarterback Connor Shaw has been banged up all season. This Saturday, he fought through a knee sprain and the flu to bring his Gamecocks back to life with the double-overtime victory against the Tigers.
The odds were against Shaw, who was hobbling on a bad knee and sick the night before the game. When Dylan Thompson and the offense struggled through the early goings of the game, Shaw seized the opportunity to maintain his status as a South Carolina hero.
He called himself into the game and Spurrier gave him the reins.
Shaw threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-29 passing, lighting it up during the fourth quarter of the game. He breathed life back into the Gamecocks.
Thompson is going to be the man in charge of the offense next season, but right now it is all Shaw. This is his show to run and Spurrier needs to continue to believe in his proven winner at quarterback.
2. Keep Getting Those Tight Ends Involved
I've been saying all season long that the team needs to throw the ball to its tight ends.
Rory "Busta" Anderson, Jerell Adams and Drew Owens are extremely talented pass-catchers and need to be utilized in the Gamecocks offense.
Against Missouri, Adams and Anderson combined for six catches and 86 yards, which was a big step up from previous production this season. Nevertheless, there is still more to get out of these tight ends.
The added dimension of tight ends running the seams and being aerial weapons can help running back Mike Davis in the ground game and the fellow wide receivers to make plays underneath or over the top.
Spurrier wants a balanced offense and the extra power of using the tight ends through the air is a good adjustment to make.
3. Defend Against the Aerial Assault
There is no way around it: South Carolina has been vulnerable against the deep ball all year long. While the Gamecocks have managed to force some interceptions downfield, the pass rush needs to get more involved and the secondary needs to prevent the big plays from happening.
Clowney has had a larger impact on games lately, but as the defense has had to do all season, the team needs to continue to make game-by-game adjustments to keep Clowney involved.
The secondary lacks deep coverage at times. Spurrier and his staff need to keep the defensive backs grounded in order to make plays and break up passes.
South Carolina has been less than stellar all year long—a major disappointment in some regards. At the end of Week 9, though, South Carolina is still in position for a shot at the SEC East title and berth in the SEC Championship Game.
That is not too bad at all.
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