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Those who wondered about the 65-year-old Spurrier’s relevance just weren’t paying attention, said Lou Holtz.

“I picked South Carolina to win the SEC East, not because I coached there but because of what Steve Spurrier and his staff had worked to build,” said Holtz, ESPN college football analyst and Spurrier’s predecessor with the Gamecocks.

Coach Joker Phillips was a Kentucky assistant from 1990 to 1996 when Spurrier’s Gators dominated the Wildcats, including victories of 73-7 in 1994 and 65-0. Phillips remembers how Florida used its wide-open, “Fun-n-Gun” to stretch the field and open space for tailbacks.

At South Carolina, Spurrier is “just doing it different this year,” Phillips said. “They’re running to set up the pass. They used to pass to set up the run.”

The next few weeks set up well for the Gamecocks and may provide Spurrier his clearest path to the SEC title game since his Florida days.

South Carolina and Vanderbilt are the East’s only one-loss teams. The Gamecocks next three games come against divisional foes Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Tennessee who are a combined 1-7 in league play. If Florida, 2-2 in the SEC, can’t get its offense on track soon, South Carolina might have the East wrapped up before traveling to The Swamp on Nov. 13.

Don’t ask Spurrier to project. He won’t do it.

“No, no, no, no,” Spurrier said. “We haven’t won enough to be considered anything yet.”

Garcia, the fourth-year junior, says the players have taken their cues of patience and focus from their coach. Garcia is amazed at Spurrier’s complex schemes that always seem to end up with an open receiver or a lane to run through. As for the critics?

“I think the only way to silence anybody is doing what our goals are and that’s to play in the SEC championship and win the SEC championship,” Garcia said.

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AP Sports Writer Will Graves in Lexington, Ky., contributed to this report.