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Spurrier views anti-dive rule as a reach

Not that the appeal of such a plunge is all that clear, but the NCAA no longer allows players to dive unnecessarily across the goal line when they score.

The restriction is part of a campaign that limits excessive celebration, but one that Florida coach Steve Spurrier, at least, does not endorse.

"I think they're a bunch of c---," Spurrier said Wednesday during a teleconference call of SEC football coaches.

"Whoever started that rule has taken a lot of fun away from the players playing the game. Nobody on other team cares if you dive into the end zone. That's not taunting, that's not rubbing it in. And it leaves too much control in the hands of referees."

The anti-celebration rules are a trickle down _ like so many other things _ from the NFL, where players no longer are allowed to remove helmets after scoring.

But Spurrier thinks the NCAA has taken things too far. "If they're hot-dogging and taunting, sure, throw a flag on them. But a little extra emotion or diving into the end zone _ Jiminy Christmas, let the kids play the game. But that's just my opinion."

BIG FINISH: A trio of tough opponents stands between South Carolina and a possible bowl bid, starting with this week's game at No. 8 Tennessee.

The Gamecocks (5-3, 3-3 ) are 21-point underdogs to the Vols (5-1, 3-1) with home games against No. 6 Florida and rival Clemson still to come.

"If you can find a way to beat Tennessee in our league you're making a statement," said coach Brad Scott, whose team has won three straight. "We're going up there with those kinds of intentions, but it's a difficult assignment. Our team has improved; whether we're on this level remains to be seen."

In losing their first three SEC games, the Gamecocks were outscored 91-38, but in winning their past three they have outscored opponents 112-40.

WORTH WATCHING: The race in the Western Division can become clearer or extremely muddled depending on the outcome of Saturday's game between Auburn and Mississippi State.

If Auburn wins, the Tigers (7-1, 4-1) retain sole possession of first place by two games with two to play against Arkansas and Alabama. If Mississippi State wins, the Bulldogs (5-2, 2-2) would force a potential three-way tie among themselves, Auburn and LSU (5-2, 3-2), with no clear tiebreaker available.

If the tie held, a vote of SEC athletic directors would decide which team went to the SEC Championship Game in December to face _ at this point _ No. 6 Florida.

Apparently television officials aren't too fond of the Auburn-Mississippi State matchup, though. This game marks the first Auburn league game not to be televised since the Mississippi State game of 1995.

ALL AND NOTHING: Despite losing to Georgia 34-13 and South Carolina 35-3 in successive weeks, Vanderbilt's defense ranks first in the SEC and sixth in the nation.

Vandy allows just 264.88 yards a game, or 4.21 per play, and has the league's top two tacklers in linebackers Carlton Hall (93 tackles) and Jamie Duncan (90 tackles).

But as good as the defense has been, it hasn't been enough to overcome an offense averaging five points against SEC opponents. That's down from 7.4 last season.

_ JOANNE KORTH

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