Just over a week ago, Columbia, S.C., was a mess.
Gamecock star Jadeveon Clowney missed South Carolina's game against Kentucky with a controversial rib injury, resulting in an uproar of criticism among college football analysts, commentators and former players. In addition, the Gamecocks barely escaped embarrassment on the field, narrowly pulling out a 35-28 victory over the lowly Wildcats.
Speculation about Clowney's dedication to the team and overall cohesiveness with his head coach swirled around Steve Spurrier's squad as it headed to Arkansas for an always-challenging SEC road matchup.
What a difference a week makes.
Clowney played. The defense dominated. The offense rolled, and the Gamecocks dismantled the Razorbacks 52-7, moving to 5-1 and second place in the SEC East.
And now with the issues of past weeks seemingly erased, the focus shifts entirely to Saturday's contest versus Tennessee; a game both Spurrier and quarterback Connor Shaw are looking forward to with much anticipation.
"We get the opportunity to go against the largest stadium in the SEC, Neyland Stadium there in Knoxville," Spurrier told media representatives Tuesday. "Always a huge game to play Tennessee ... It's always fun for our team to go to the largest stadium and play a team with the tradition of Tennessee."
Shaw echoed his coaches nod to Tennessee's tradition.
"It is always fun going to Tennessee, they hold over 100,000," Shaw said Tuesday. "I'm sure Coach Spurrier mentioned this, but he is from Tennessee, so it is a big game for him as well, and we are looking forward to the challenge."
A model of offensive consistency, Shaw owns a 22-4 record as a starter and has amassed at least 250 total yards and multiple touchdowns in four of South Carolina's six games this season. The Flowery Branch, Ga., native ranks third in both completion percentage and passer efficiency inside the SEC, as well.
"I feel like Connor Shaw has a better sense of exactly what to do with the ball and when to do it," UT defensive end Corey Miller said. "He's great with his legs. He's great with his arms. He can do both."
Much of Shaw's success has come via the deep ball as six of his 10 touchdowns passes have covered over 25 yards. His strong performances have elevated the play of many Gamecock receivers, specifically that of junior wideout Damiere Byrd.
Through six games, the Sicklerville, N.J., native has only 101 yards and one touchdown less than he did in all of 2012 and has already surpassed his reception total from a year ago.
"I attribute (the increase in production) to Damiere working on catching the ball through the summer, through preseason practice and so forth," Spurrier said. "He's caught the ball very well, learning how to run routes a little bit better and this, that and the other."
Shaw has playmakers at wide receiver. His biggest asset, however, resides in the backfield in the form of the SEC's leading rusher Mike Davis.
"I like Mike Davis," Miller said. "I like what he can do. He's really shifty with his feet. He can go in the gap. He can come back out the gap. He makes plays. He extends plays, he's strong and has a nice stiff arm to him. I like what he brings to the table."
A mere 275-yard rusher a year ago, Davis has flown somewhat under the radar in 2013 despite outperforming SEC running back juggernauts like Georgia's Todd Gurley, Alabama's T.J. Yeldon and LSU's Jeremy Hill. Davis leads the conference in rush yards per game (123.7) and is tied for first in touchdowns on the ground (9) as well.
"He runs the ball well," UT linebacker Dontavis Sapp said. "He's running through arm tackles. We've got to square him up and put our helmet on him. We can't go in and arm-tackle him."