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Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida

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Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier knows the only thing South Carolina lost last week was a football game. He hopes his players understand that, too.

Spurrier said the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) can still achieve all their goals, chief among them taking control of the SEC's Eastern Division this week when they play at No. 3 Florida (6-0, 5-0).

Saturday's winner doesn't clinch a spot in the conference title game, but will have a stranglehold on the top with only a couple of games remaining.

Spurrier was a disappointed as anyone at South Carolina's 23-21 loss to LSU last week. Still, Spurrier thinks the team can rebound this week and take a big step toward winning its second SEC East championship in three seasons.

``If we're going to win our division, which we hope to do, this is a crucial game,'' Spurrier said. ``We all know that. I don't know how else to say it, except we'll go down there and be ready to give it our best shot and hopefully play with a little bit more energy from a lot of our guys than the last time we played.''

It's the third straight top-10 SEC showdown for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks moved up to No. 3 in the polls when they dominated then fifth-ranked Georgia 35-7 on Oct. 6 before falling at then-No. 9 LSU last Saturday night. South Carolina holds a 12-game win streak against SEC East opponents, a run that includes a 36-14 victory at The Swamp two years ago to clinch the Gamecocks' lone trip to the SEC championship.

Safety DeVonte Holloman said such a stretch against three top-10 opponents can be grueling. But ``that's what we came to the SEC to do,'' he said. ``Got a lot of good teams in the SEC so you've got to be ready to play your best and if you don't do that, you can lose.''

Players learn quickly if you lose, you've got to come in the next week ready to look forward, Holloman said, or you risk more trouble.

``You've got to put it behind you,'' Holloman said.

South Carolina's defense hadn't given up more than 120 yards rushing to an opponent in its first six games, yet was gashed by LSU for 258 yards on the ground.

Holloman said the problem was too many missed tackles, something he believes will be corrected this week.

South Carolina's defense also could be without one its starters in defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who Spurrier said was recovering from a shoulder injury and highly doubtful to go against the Gators.

The Gamecocks better tighten up their run defense - and fast. Florida is second in the SEC in rushing this year averaging more than 233 yards a game.

South Carolina also couldn't rely on its usually reliable running attack.

Star rusher Marcus Lattimore was held to 35 yards on 13 carries and Spurrier said Wednesday night the junior star might not start against Florida because of a lingering hip injury.

Lattimore will be missed if he can't go. He rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns at The Swamp two years ago, a game that clinched the SEC East for South Carolina.

Spurrier hopes quarterback Connor Shaw can look downfield a bit more this week and open up some space for the running backs.

``Yeah, we need to mix it up a little bit better, somehow or another,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier knows how to win championships, his statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a tribute to his 1966 Heisman Trophy, his 1996 national championship and six SEC titles - all won at his alma mater, Florida.

``He's definitely a Gator great. I drive by his statue every day,'' Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``But it's not really anything that's going to bother us. All of our players here didn't play for him or weren't here when he was around.''

If South Carolina beats Florida, it has just two SEC games left against Tennessee and Arkansas - and both are at home where the Gamecocks have won eight in a row.

Spurrier knows full well the SEC champion - the league has won the past six national titles - will likely have a say in this year's BCS chase. First, things first, though, and that's making sure the Gamecocks won't look backwards.

``We're moving on from last week,'' Gamecocks receiver Bruce Ellington said. ``That game was last week. Even though we lost, we just have to focus on this week and focus on the task at hand. We have to go to Florida and try to get a win.''

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AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

Redskins' schedule "rest disparity" is very fair in 2018

The NFL started taking into account a new factor when putting together its schedule this year. The concept is called rest disparity. It stems from a complaint made by the Giants last year. And, of course, when the Giants have a cold, the NFL sneezes and immediately does whatever it takes to cure the cold. 

Here is how Peter King laid it out this morning on the MMQB:

Last year, I heard the Giants were not pleased with their schedule because they felt they were too often playing teams more rested than they were. In consecutive October weeks, they played teams coming off byes, for instance. The NFL calculated a figure for every team based on the number of combined days of rest for their foes or for the team, calculating, for instance, in those two weeks, the Giants were a minus-14 (minus-seven for each of the foes, Seattle and Denver, coming off byes). In all, by my math, the Giants were a league-worst minus-22 in “rest disparity.”

So the schedule makers worked to minimize the rest disparity this year. According to King, the worst rest disparity in the league this year is minus-11. The Giants are minus-eight. 

The question that Redskins fans will have immediately here is if the Giants’ rest disparity was reduced at the expense of the team in burgundy and gold. The answer that will surprise many is no. 

The Redskins rest disparity in 2018 will be either minus-one or zero. The variance is due to the possibility that their Week 16 game in Tennessee will be flexed to a Saturday game (see details here). If the game stays on Sunday, they will be at minus-one in rest disparity. If it gets moved, they will have had exactly as much rest over the course of the season as did their opponents, in aggregate. 

If you're interested in the nitty-gritty, here is how it breaks down. In eight or nine of their games, they will have had the same amount of rest as their opponents. They play one game coming off of their bye, a Monday night game in New Orleans. The Saints play the previous Sunday, giving Washington a plus-seven in days of rest. That is canceled out when they play the Falcons in Week 9 after Atlanta’s bye. 

Due to their Thanksgiving game, they get three extra days off going into their Week 13 Monday night game in Philadelphia. Two weeks later the Jaguars will have those three extra days of rest when they host the Redskins, having played on Thursday in Week 14.

They lose a day relative to their opponents coming off of those Monday night games against the Saints and Eagles. The Redskins get an extra day prior to visiting the Giants in Week 8 as New York has a Monday night game in Week 7. 

So far, that comes to minus-one in rest disparity. That will remain in place if they play the Titans on Sunday, December 23. If the game is flexed to Saturday, they will gain a day of rest on the Eagles in Week 17, zeroing out the rest disparity for the season. 

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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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Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

Will the Caps be able to take advantage of home ice in Game 5?

There's a saying in sports that goes, "A series doesn't start until a team loses at home." For the Washington Capitals and Columbus Blue Jackets, their series won't start until someone wins at home.

Four games into the series, the road team has won every game. Columbus took Game 1 and Game 2 from Capital One Arena and the Caps answered back by winning Game 3 and Game 4 in Ohio.

"We came [to Columbus] to try to get the first one," Barry Trotz said after Thursday's win. "Did that. We came here to get the second one. Did that. All we've done is just got on even terms."

Now the series is a best of three with two of those final three games in Washington, but how much of an advantage does that really give the Caps?

"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," Trotz said. "I think we have been since we got here. We've just got to do it at home."

The various playoff struggles the Caps have suffered in the Alex Ovechkin era have been well-documented to this point. One particularly maddening issue is the team's struggles to win at home. Since 2008, the first year the Ovechkin-led Caps made the playoffs, the team is just 28-25 in home playoff games. Since 2015, Trotz's first season as head coach, the Caps are 12-10 in Washington.

Part of that is just the nature of hockey. Upsets are prevalent in the playoffs in the NHL and home-ice advantage does not mean as much as it does in other sports. But it should mean more than 28-25.

Besides having the crowd on your side, home ice also provides matchup advantages. The home team gets the second line change at home, meaning during a stoppage in play the home coach gets the opportunity to see who the opponent puts on the ice before making his own change. For the Caps, this means getting Dmitry Orlov and Matt Niskanen on the ice against Artemi Panarin.

Trotz has matched his top shutdown pair against Columbus' top line all series long. According to Natural Stat Trick, when Niskanen was on the ice in Game 4 he held Panarin's Corsi For percentage to 36.36. When Niskanen was not on the ice, Panarin's percentage shot up to 71.43. 

Theoretically, it should be much easier for Trotz to get those favorable matchups at home. Now all the Caps have to do is take advantage.

"Our home record hasn't been really great in the last little stretch at the end of the season here and obviously the first two games of the playoffs," Trotz said. "We owe it to our fans, we owe it to ourselves to take advantage of that."

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