Midseason review: South Carolina

South Carolina Gamecocks

Record: 4-1 (2-1 SEC)

The window of opportunity was there for the Gamecocks this season in the Eastern Division, and they haven’t wasted any time jumping right through. You want to talk about momentum. This team is swimming in momentum after knocking off then No. 1-ranked Alabama 35-21 last week and ending the Crimson Tide’s 19-game winning streak. The Gamecocks are positioned right where they wanted to be going into the second half of the season -- atop the Eastern Division standings all by themselves. They still have to prove they can go on the road and win big games, but there’s no debating the nucleus of young talent on this team. To this point, it’s been the most balanced offense Steve Spurrier has put on the field at South Carolina since taking the job in 2005. And on defense, Ellis Johnson’s guys answered the call against Alabama in a big way after not tackling very well two weeks earlier in the 35-27 loss to Auburn. The Head Ball Coach has said since the beginning of the season that this was a different team. It also has a chance to be a special team. But doing that will require finishing the season, which has been a struggle for the Gamecocks. Since 2000, they’re just 18-34 in regular-season games played after Oct. 15.

Offensive MVP: WR Alshon Jeffery. He’s become the ultimate offensive weapon for the Gamecocks, who are making it a point to get the ball to the 6-4, 230-pound Jeffery every chance they get. He’s delivering too, with 34 catches and 625 receiving yards, both SEC highs. Teams simply haven’t had an answer for Jeffery with his blend of size, speed and ability to go up and get the football in a crowd.

Defensive MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore. As a freshman, Gilmore showed flashes of brilliance. Now as a sophomore, he’s one of the better defensive backs in the league, not to mention one of the more versatile. He leads the Gamecocks with five tackles for loss, is second in total tackles and also has an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown. He’s one of those guys you can bring on a blitz one play and then have him lock down on the opposing team’s best receiver the next three plays.