Midseason report: South Carolina

Very little about South Carolina's season has gone as planned. The most obvious indicator of that would be the play of its star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was thought to be a Heisman Trophy frontrunner only a few months ago. But inconsistent play -- and sometimes inconsistent attendance -- has brought him down to Earth. A player who was thought to be a surefire No. 1 overall pick is now a week-to-week question mark.

Clowney's lackluster production hasn't been a harbinger of doom, though. Despite losing to Georgia in a fashion that might have said South Carolina's title hopes were over, the Gamecocks are suddenly right back in the thick of the SEC East race. The offense is humming with Connor Shaw under center and Mike Davis carrying the load at tailback, and the defense is fourth in the conference in yards allowed and second in passing defense. With Georgia reeling and Florida still trying to find answers, South Carolina is faced with really one obstacle, Missouri, a team that many predicted would finish near the bottom of the division.

Should coach Steve Spurrier lead South Carolina past Tennessee this weekend and Missouri the following week, things set up nicely for a run to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. It won't be easy with Mississippi State, Florida and Clemson after that, but at least those games will be at home where the Gamecocks have played well.

Offensive MVP: Connor Shaw

With all due respect to the brilliant play of Davis at running back, this honor belongs to Shaw, who has played like a man possessed this season. He's not the most talented or the most athletic quarterback in the conference. He might not even be the best player on his own team, but he's certainly the toughest. He sets the example under center, which is exactly what you want from a title contender. Oh, and his performance against Arkansas last weekend -- four touchdowns, no interceptions -- wasn't half bad.

Defensive MVP: Kelcy Quarles

This was supposed to be Clowney's spot, hands down. He was supposed to be considered the Defensive MVP of the country. But as of today Clowney doesn't lead his team in tackles, sacks or tackles for loss. With that said, the distinction of defensive MVP at South Carolina has to go to Quarles, who is in the top 10 in tackles (15), is second in tackles for loss (5) and leads all Gamecocks with five sacks. The 298-pound junior is second on the team with two quarterback pressures for good measure.