September 4, 2008

SEC: South Carolina turns to Smelley this week

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The season really hasn't officially started until Steve Spurrier makes his first quarterback change.

Spurrier didn't wait long to change up things this time. After Tommy Beecher threw four interceptions last week against North Carolina State, Chris Smelley entered the game and went 5-for-5 with two touchdown passes in the Gamecocks' 34-0 victory. An injury to his non-throwing shoulder will sideline Beecher for tonight's game at Vanderbilt, though he might not have beaten out Smelley anyway.

"(Smelley) played well and deserves to start probably (even) if Tommy wasn't injured," Spurrier said. "Tommy is injured, so we don't have to worry about this, that and the other."

The turn of events gives Smelley a chance to redeem himself. South Carolina was ranked sixth in the nation last season when Smelley threw two interceptions in a 17-6 loss to Vanderbilt. The Gamecocks wouldn't win again, as they ended the season on a five-game losing streak.

Beecher's injury also could create an opportunity for Stephen Garcia, a heralded redshirt freshman who has run into problems off the field and hasn't played a down for South Carolina. Garcia heads into Vanderbilt as the Gamecocks' second-team quarterback because of Beecher's shoulder problem.

South Carolina isn't the only SEC team with quarterback issues.

Auburn still hasn't decided on a clear-cut starter, though Kodi Burns has a cut on his shin that made Chris Todd the obvious choice to start Saturday against Southern Miss. Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said he was sticking with Wesley Carroll, who threw three interceptions Saturday in a 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech. Tennessee needs more consistency from Jonathan Crompton, who completed less than half his passes Monday as the Volunteers fell 27-24 to UCLA in overtime.

  • South Carolina WR Kenny McKinley vs. Vanderbilt CB D.J. Moore. McKinley leads all active SEC players in career receptions and receiving yards. Moore arguably is the league's best cornerback. That creates an intriguing head-to-head matchup when they line up against each other tonight. This nationally televised showcase also offers McKinley a chance to earn revenge. Moore picked off two passes and McKinley had four catches for 79 yards last year when Vanderbilt upset South Carolina 17-6. This game also offers a chance for Moore to earn bragging rights when he returns home to Spartanburg, S.C.

  • Auburn's Todd. Although Burns has returned to practice since cutting his left shin last weekend, his status for the Tigers' game Saturday with Southern Miss remains uncertain. That gives Todd a chance to start and perhaps gain the upper hand in Auburn's quarterback competition. No matter who's under center, Auburn needs to do a better job of throwing the ball. Todd and Burns went a combined 13 of 27 for 85 yards with one touchdown and one interception Saturday in a 34-0 victory over Louisiana-Monroe.

    South Carolina at Vanderbilt, 8:30 p.m.
    Southern Miss at Auburn, 12:30 p.m.
    Ole Miss at Wake Forest, 3:30 p.m.
    Central Michigan at Georgia, 4:30 p.m.
    Norfolk State at Kentucky, 6 p.m.
    Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas, 7 p.m.
    Southeastern Louisiana at Mississippi State, 7 p.m.
    Tulane at Alabama, 7:07 p.m.
    Miami at Florida, 8 p.m.
    Kentucky defensive tackle Myron Pryor forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and also scored on a 72-yard return of another fumble Sunday in a 27-2 victory over Louisville. Vanderbilt QB Chris Nickson bounced back from a disappointing 2007 season by rushing for 166 yards and two touchdowns and also throwing a touchdown pass last Thursday in a 34-13 triumph over Miami University. Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody led a defensive effort that held Clemson to zero net rushing yards Saturday in the Tide's 34-10 upset. Florida strong safety Ahmad Black picked off two passes Saturday in a 56-10 victory over Hawaii, returning one for a touchdown. LSU running back Charles Scott rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries Saturday in a 41-13 victory over Appalachian State. Auburn running back Ben Tate ran for 115 yards on 13 attempts against Louisiana-Monroe. . South Carolina ranked last in the SEC in run defense a year ago, but the Gamecocks allowed just 89 yards on 37 carries against North Carolina State. Georgia true freshman kicker Blair Walsh made a 52-yard field goal Saturday against Georgia Southern in his debut performance.

  • Mississippi State's Carroll threw three interceptions Saturday in a 22-14 loss to Louisiana Tech. Carroll wasn't picked off last year until the Bulldogs' 10th game of the season, but he now has gone 71 for 143 with 10 interceptions and six touchdown passes in his past five games. Tennessee's Crompton went 19-of-41 in the season-opening loss to UCLA. Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln went 1-of-4 on field-goal attempts against UCLA, with misses from 34, 51 and 55 yards. Arkansas and Kentucky boasted high-powered offenses the past two years, but their season-opening performances showed they might need time to adjust to heavy personnel losses. Arkansas rushed for 76 yards on 21 carries while squeaking out a 28-24 victory over Division I-AA Western Illinois. Kentucky mustered just 210 yards of total offense including 63 rushing yards on 33 carries in a victory over Louisville.

  • "If I'm right, the 'U' stands for the University of Miami. Well, we're the University of Florida. We're the 'U.' I don't refer to them as the 'U.' I refer to them as Miami. If the 'U' is for university and winning and championships, we're the 'U.' They are Miami, and that's what I call them.'' Florida wide receiver Louis Murphy to The Miami Herald about the Gators' game Saturday with Miami.

    "It is like what (Usain) Bolt said: 'I don't really run against the other runners. I run against myself. I prepare to be the best that I can be in every race that I run.' That is really the attitude that you would like every player on your team to have. Go do that every game. The last game is over, and nothing that happened in the last game will help us win the next game, and the players need to realize that and understand it. They have to re-center and refocus. Why did the mighty fall? Complacency. Because people got satisfied, and a lot of times that is not helpful to being successful, so that is not what we want to be. That is what we have to prove as a team, that we can be a consistent team that will compete all the time." Alabama coach Nick Saban on how his team needs to respond to its season-opening victory over Clemson.

    "Chris Todd will be our starter this week and he may play the whole game. We're not going to alternate them every series, and if we think we need somebody else to go in and give us a shot in the arm, then that's what we're going to do. We've still got two quarterbacks, and until we get into the conference, we'll keep it like that." Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville about his team's quarterback situation.

    "It was tough the last minutes of the game, I had to walk outside. I couldn't watch the end of the fourth quarter." Mississippi State free safety Derek Pegues to about the pain of watching the Bulldogs' season-opening loss to Louisiana Tech from his home. Pegues, an All-SEC performer, was serving a one-game suspension for violating the school's attendance policy.

    "The welfare of the people of Baton Rouge, the uncertain power issues facing all of us and the condition of Tiger Stadium were all factors in making this decision. We are fortunate that both schools had a common open date later in the year. I am appreciative of the cooperation of the good people at Troy for their understanding of this situation." LSU athletic director Joe Alleva discussing the reasons this Saturday's LSU-Troy game was moved to Nov. 15 in the wake of Hurricane Gustav.

    "The rankings right now are not too important. The only time polls matter is in December." Georgia center Chris Davis to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in regard to Georgia's fall from the No. 1 spot in the coaches' and Associated Press polls. USC is the new No. 1.

  • ETC.
  • Georgia's bad luck with injuries continued Saturday when defensive tackle Jeff Owens tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, knocking him out for the rest of the season. Corvey Irvin will replace Owens in the starting lineup this week, as Kade Weston sits out at least one more game with a sprained medial collateral ligament. Mississippi State linebacker Jamar Chaney is out for the season with a fractured leg. Chaney led the Bulldogs with 89 tackles last season. Florida receiver Percy Harvin and linebacker Brandon Spikes are likely to play against Miami after missing the Hawaii game with injuries. Arkansas running back Michael Smith will return to the starting lineup against Louisiana-Monroe after serving a one-game suspension last week for improper use of scholarship textbooks. Kentucky's 27-2 victory over Louisville marked the first time the Wildcats had held an opposing offense without any points since a 25-0 victory over Vanderbilt on Nov. 16, 1996. Leigh Tiffin's 54-yard field goal against Clemson last week was the third-longest kick in Alabama history. The school record-holder is Tiffin's father, Van, who made a 57-yarder against Texas A&M in 1985. Georgia's game with Central Michigan will represent a reunion of sorts for Bulldogs defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, who came to Georgia in 2005 after spending five seasons on Central Michigan's staff.

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    Steve Megargee is a national writer for He can be reached at

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