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FIVE POINTS: vs. Mississippi State

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1. Smelley is solid. Not great, but solid. The line: 19-of-37 for 279, two scores, one pick. Sacked twice for nine yards. He made a few bad decisions -- one the aforementioned INT -- but again looked better than Blake has for those parts of the year in which he has actually been in the game. And Smelley's time under center ain't over yet:

"We thought he played a little bit better than Blake. So we're going to give him a chance," Spurrier said, adding Smelley would have a "chance to go the distance."

Spurrier said Smelley has a quicker release than Mitchell and is more mobile, both of take on added importance given the offensive line's struggles.

You hate to say definitively that Blake Mitchell is done as the starting quarterback. So far, his career has been harder to kill than MacGyver.

All he needs to start his comeback is a spoon and a match.

But it's looking more and more like he'll ride the bench until he graduates.

2. Finally, Beamerball. Shane Beamer was hired because of his last name and its association with big special teams plays. There was none bigger in the game, and might not have been a bigger one this year, than the blocked punt that put the Gamecocks in position to take a 24-21 lead.

Gamecocks fans, this is a blocked kick. Know you haven't seen many over the years...

Beamer, who was an assistant coach at Mississippi State last season, noticed that McAdams had a longer stride than most kickers, which slowed down his motion somewhat.

Confident Norwood could beat the snapper, he opted to got to it when the Gamecocks most needed a big play.

"(McAdams) did a heck of a job kicking it today," Beamer said. "He was really booming them. We thought we had some things we could take advantage of, scheme wise, to try and get in there.

"The snapper does a great job snapping it. I think he makes up for the fact the punter might be a little slow. Eric Norwood did a great job. We had a thing schemed up where he had to beat the snapper one-on-one. I think he did and it turned out to be a big play for us."

Gamecock fans, this is called coaching. Know you haven't seen much over the years...

3. Kenny gets in the game. With the exception of a 102-yard performance at Georgia, Kenny McKinley was having a disappointing season, netting less than 50 yards in every other game. No more. McKinley grabbed just four balls, but gained 107 yards and scored twice. And yes, Jared Cook can catch the ball. He did it four times for 66 yards Saturday.

4. Stopping the run. For a week, anyway, the run was not an unstoppable force of nature for the other team. The 142 yards was the fewest the Gamecocks have given up since Georgia (128). And a 3.3-yard average is pretty solid against a team that was piling up 165.8 yards a game. But it's still Mississippi State; Kentucky will be a legitimate test, though no team with Andre Woodson is going to rely too heavily on the run. Beyond that, Arkansas looms large a few weeks later.

5. Races and rankings. The Florida loss to Auburn not only makes the Gators look mortal, it gives a boost -- and some breathing room -- to everybody else in the division. A second conference loss would not eliminate South Carolina if the Gamecocks win all of their other games and defeate Florida.

But it also creates this peculiarity: The first SEC East leader to visit Columbia will not be Florida, but Kentucky. Thursday just got a whole lot more important for both teams: Kentucky to establish itself as the front-runner for the division, South Carolina to prove they can stay in it.

In the rankings, South Carolina is now No. 11, actually one place ahead of Georgia. Why now, I don't know, but at least they came around. The Gamecocks are ranked 18th in the USA TODAY poll, seven slots behind a team they defeated on the road. And the team is No. 14 in the prestigious Harris Poll -- what, you've never heard of it -- but also behind the Bulldogs.


OVERALL GRADE: B+. Everything appears to be clicking, but it's Mississippi State. Not to dog the "other" 'Dogs, but a bowl berth is the likely best-case scenario for them. The big game is Thursday. That said, the Gamecocks avoided a letdown from the LSU loss and didn't overlook State with the Wildcats looming.