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Spurrier steadying No. 3 South Carolina

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Spurrier steadying No. 3 South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier likes what undefeated South Carolina has accomplished so far. He knows, though, the third-ranked Gamecocks have plenty of games left that will determine how special the season turns out.

South Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) jumped up three spots Sunday to its highest position since 1984 after a dominating 35-7 victory over No. 14 Georgia on Saturday night. The Gamecocks reached a number of milestones, winning their school-record 10th straight game and taking three straight from the Bulldogs for the first time with the sort of performance that fuels national title talk.

``We realized if we won the game last night, this could happen,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier handled those sky-high expectations in much of his 12 seasons at Florida from 1990-2001, bringing his alma mater a national championship in 1996. Spurrier says this group of Gamecocks is his most complete and mature group since he took control of things here in 2005. All that doesn't guarantee perfection in the unpredictable world of college football.

``We certainly like where we are right now, but we're smart enough to know it's still a difficult, difficult road for us,'' Spurrier said.

That starts this week with the Gamecocks heading to No. 9 LSU to face a Tiger team angry from its season's first loss at No. 4 Florida earlier Saturday and carrying the advantage of a night game at Death Valley where the home team rarely falters.

The fired-up LSU atmosphere even stung Spurrier before, his 1997 top-ranked, defending national champions stumbling to the Tigers 28-21.

``They'll be ready for us,'' Spurrier said. ``They're ready for everybody.''

Part of Spurrier's success at South Carolina is his steady approach from week to week. When he arrived, he thought too much time was spent tracking state rival Clemson and not focused on the Southeastern Conference and got both players and fans to lock on to chasing a league title.

He also knew the Gamecocks couldn't let the state's best players such as receiver A.J. Green head off to Georgia like he did before Spurrier arrived. So Spurrier landed the past four winners of the state's ``Mr. Football'' award given South Carolina's top prep player. Those included last April's first-round draft pick in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and current Gamecocks stars tailback Marcus Lattimore and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.

Lattimore and Clowney showed their worth against the Bulldogs. Lattimore gained 109 yards - he has 467 yards and four TDs in three career games vs. Georgia - while Clowney led a defensive effort that held the SEC's highest scoring team coming in without a point the game's first 58 minutes.

Clowney said the noise from a record 85,199 people at Williams-Brice Stadium was so overwhelming, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray had to tap his center on the backside to get the snaps off - and it gave South Carolina defenders the chance to tee off. ``I couldn't hear, so I knew they couldn't hear,'' Clowney said, laughing.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said South Carolina certainly played every bit as well as the LSU team that overwhelmed the Bulldogs, 42-10, in last year's SEC title game. Continuing that level of play is the big question, Richt said.

``There are still some mighty big tests for them as there are for all of us in our league,'' he said Sunday.

Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said the Gamecocks quickly got ahead by three touchdowns in the first quarter and the Bulldogs couldn't catch up.

``Being down 21-0 in the first quarter, that's hard'' to come back from, Jones said. ``Especially by a team in the SEC.''

Spurrier has a rule in place, like many coaches, that his staff and players get 24 hours to celebrate success or flush out failure. Then it's back to work, no matter what happened in the previous game.

``That's the way this team works. That's the system coach Spurrier has in place and that's the way the players will handle it,'' South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said.

It might be hard to totally forget this one, especially with happy students and fans on campus telling the Gamecocks how great they've been. Spurrier understands and accepts that, too.

The last time Spurrier's Gamecocks enjoyed this large a spotlight came in 2010 following a stunning 35-21 win over then top-ranked Alabama. South Carolina then lost a week later, 31-28, at Kentucky, a defeat Spurrier blames more on a stalled second-half offense than players not being ready. ``I blame the coaches for that one,'' he said.

This time, the Gamecock feature better, older leaders who've kept the team even-keeled through the high times and the low. ``You really don't ever know anything until you go play the game,'' Spurrier said. ``But we've got some good leaders.''

Leaders, Spurrier thinks, who'll keep locked on to the next opponent while understanding that success won't guarantee anything beyond that. ``We do have a chance for a big year,'' Spurrier said. ``If we continue on doing what we're doing.''

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Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

Game 4 Capitals at Blue Jackets Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

With a thrilling double-overtime victory in Game 3, the Capitals are right back in the series. Trailing the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1, the Caps will look to even up the series at 2-games apiece before returning to Washington for Game 5.

As the Caps take the ice for Game 4, you can be certain that Braden Holtby will be the man to lead the team in net. His stellar performance in Game 3 resolidified him as the team' starter and ended whatever goalie tandem there was between him and Philipp Grubauer.

What: Washington Capitals vs. Columbus Blue Jackets, Round 1, Game 4

Where: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

When: 7:30 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington (Channel Finder)

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 on NBC Sports Washington's live stream page.

WHEN IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

The Capitals take on the Blue Jackets in Game 4 on Thursday, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. ET in Columbus. Columbus currently leads the series 2-1.

WHAT CHANNEL IS THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME ON?

Capitals-Blue Jackets, Game 4 will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off with Capitals FaceOff at 6:30 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 7:00 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington for Caps Extra following the game, Caps Overtime at 10:30 p.m. and Caps in 30 at 11:30 p.m. for all your postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:30 p.m. — Capitals at Blue Jackets
10:00 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime
11:30 p.m. — Caps in 30

WHERE CAN I STREAM THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Capitals-Blue Jackets Game 4, as well as Caps GameTime and Caps Extra, is available to stream live here through NBC Sports Washington's live stream page and is available to authenticated NBC Sports Washington subscribers on desktops, tablets, mobile devices and connected TVs anywhere in the United States.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR THE CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS GAME?

Here are the Caps' projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Jakub Vrana - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Brett Connolly- Lars Eller - Devante Smith-Pelly
Chandler Stephenson -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Scratches: Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky (upper-body), Shane Gerisch, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek

CAPITALS-BLUE JACKETS OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

SEE THE CAPITALS VS. BLUE JACKETS FULL SERIES SCHEDULE HERE

CAPITALS SCHEDULE

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Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Need to Know: Five players who are wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, April 19, seven days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

Five wild cards for the 2018 Redskins

We know what to expect out of many members of the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan will register between 10 and 13 sacks. Zach Brown will be among the league leaders in tackles. Jamison Crowder will compile about 800 yards receiving. But we really don’t know what to expect out of a lot of the players expected to play key roles. Here are five of them.

S Montae Nicholson—Although most of the uncertainty surrounding Nicholson is about his health, we really don’t know what he can do over a full season. Sure, he looked good in the six games he played last year but opposing offenses did not have much of a chance to probe his weaknesses. If he stays healthy, his ability to adjust to what the offenses are doing against him will be the next phase of his development. 

CB Fabian Moreau—As a rookie, he was impressive as a punt team gunner, but he got very limited playing time on defense (59 snaps, only seven after Week 5). The Redskins will be counting on him stepping into a bigger role after the departures of Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller. He has the tools but we won’t know how well he can handle the job until he gets extended playing time. 

WR Maurice Harris—Last year he went from spectacular to invisible in a hurry. He made a sensational catch for 36 yards and a touchdown against the Vikings the first time he was targeted. In five games after that, he had just three receptions for 26 yards. Should he have had more playing time (76 snaps)? Or did he just not earn more targets? The real Maurice Harris should come to the forefront in 2018.

NT Phil Taylor—You know the story here. He was looking great in training camp until a quad injury sidelined him for the season. Taylor is healthy enough for the Redskins to give him another chance but this is a player who has not taken the field since November of 2014. We simply don’t know what to expect out of him even if he does make into Week 1 in good health. 

RB Samaje Perine—His play improved as the year went on but he wasn’t good enough to keep both Jay Gruden and Doug Williams from saying that running back is a draft need. Ideally, he shares carries with the probable draft pick with a few going to Chris Thompson and they combine to rush for 1,800 yards. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS.

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Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 33
—Training camp starts (7/26) 98
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 143

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