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Desperate time for South Carolina heading into SEC East rivalry game against Georgia

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Consider what No. 24 South Carolina is facing Saturday when it plays No. 6 Georgia.

The Gamecocks entered the season with championship hopes, from the SEC East to the national title. A loss on Saturday at home, and that's all gone — on Sept. 13.

Brutal.

South Carolina (1-1, 0-1 SEC) would already have two conference losses and be essentially three games behind Georgia, if you include the tiebreaker the Bulldogs would hold. By Saturday night, a Capital One Bowl bid might be the best the Gamecocks can do.

The annual early-season matchup between South Carolina and Georgia has become one of the SEC's biggest, a game with national implications, thanks to the Gamecocks' rise to national power under coach Steve Spurrier.

"We don't have a whole lot of rivals. We haven't beaten anybody enough to have rivals," Spurrier said Wednesday.

That used to be true. South Carolina is coming off three straight 11-win seasons, though Georgia has won the SEC East two of the last four years.

Georgia snapped a three-game losing streak to South Carolina last season with a wild 41-30 victory. Missouri ended up winning the East and will likely have a say in that race again. Maybe Florida and Tennessee, too.

The Gamecocks and Bulldogs get a little extra attention this week as the one matchup of Top 25 teams on an otherwise underwhelming slate of games.

The picks:

MARQUEE MATCHUP

No. 6 Georgia (minus 5) at No. 24 South Carolina

Never underestimate a desperate team, especially at home ... SOUTH CAROLINA 28-24.

TEST TIME

Tennessee (plus 20½) at No. 4 Oklahoma

Volunteers are improved but also one of the least experienced teams in the country. Last week's depth chart had 30 players listed as either freshmen or sophomores. Either grow up fast or get taught a painful lesson in Norman ... OKLAHOMA 45-21.

East Carolina (plus 11) at No. 17 Virginia Tech

Hokies had a statement victory against Ohio State. Next test is a follow-up against a team that has in recent years given Virginia Tech all it can handle ... VIRGINIA TECH 28-20.

CONFERENCE CALLS

Penn State (minus 3½) at Rutgers

Nittany Lions got a get-out-of-NCAA-jail card this week that made them immediately postseason eligible. Losing to Rutgers is no way to celebrate ... PENN STATE 35-24.

No. 16 Arizona State (minus 15½) at Colorado

Sun Devils have never lost to Buffaloes in five meetings ... ARIZONA STATE 48-31.

No. 21 Louisville (minus 6½) at Virginia

ACC newbie Cardinals go on road for first time in conference ... LOUISVILLE 24-20.

WORTH A LOOK

Houston (plus 18½) at No. 25 BYU, Thursday

Good time for BYU to ramp up the Heisman campaign for QB Taysom Hill ... BYU 31-24.

UCF (plus 10) at No. 20 Missouri

Are we overlooking Tigers? Again ... MISSOURI 35-27.

No. 9 Southern California (minus 17) at Boston College

USC star DT Leonard Williams has been nursing a sore ankle. Didn't stop him from eating up Stanford last week. Eagles beware ... USC 28-13.

UNRANKED BUT NOT UNINTERESTING

Arkansas (plus 2) at Texas Tech

Red Raiders (2-0) are unbeaten but unimpressive ... ARKANSAS 31-27

Iowa State (plus 10½) at Iowa

Last three games in the Cy-Hawk rivalry have been decided by 12 points ... IOWA 21-17.

BEST BET

No. 12 UCLA (minus 7½) vs. Texas at Arlington, Texas

Bruins have been underwhelming. They're also 2-0, so all is not horrible. Horrible was the Longhorns last week. ... UCLA 28-17.

UPSET SPECIAL

West Virginia (plus 3½) at Maryland

Terps snapped seven-game losing streak to Mountaineers last year with 37-0 victory. ... WEST VIRGINIA 31-24.

COULD GET UGLY

No. 8 Baylor (minus 34½) at Buffalo, Friday

Bulls have allowed 75 points in two games — against Duquesne and Army. Maybe hope for snow? ... BAYLOR 66-21.

Rice (plus 31½) at No. 7 Texas A&M

Aggies go for first 3-0 start under coach Kevin Sumlin ... TEXAS A&M 52-24

Louisiana-Monroe (plus 31) at No. 10 LSU

Tigers have not allowed a point in opponents' last 19 possessions ... LSU 48-14.

No. 11 Notre Dame (minus 28½) vs. Purdue at Indianapolis

Shamrock Series time for Notre Dame, so prepare for some uniform weirdness ... NOTRE DAME 41-10

Louisiana (plus 27) at No. 14 Mississippi

Rebels have allowed 16 points in two games ... OLE MISS 35-14.

Army (plus 28) at No. 15 Stanford

Good opportunity for Cardinal to fix red-zone issues ... STANFORD 48-17

Kent State (plus 32) at No. 22 Ohio State

No better way for Buckeyes to get better than with in-state opponent. They've won 38 straight against Ohio schools ... OHIO STATE 38-7.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at http://www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

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