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University of South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia started shaving his face this year in an effort to accommodate the wishes of Gamecocks’ head coach Steve Spurrier.

But is that the only thing Garcia has been shaving? And no, we’re not talking about “man-scaping.”

In light of the atrocious season the fifth-year senior has been having so far in 2011, some have speculated that Garcia has been shaving points during the No. 14/18 Gamecocks first five games of the season.

For the record, we don’t believe this rumor … and it’s very important to note that no one has presented any off-field evidence to support it … but there’s certainly no shortage of on-field “evidence” to justify the speculation.

In 2010, Garcia completed 64.2 percent of his passes, had a 148.7 quarterback rating and threw just nine interceptions during the entire 12-game regular season – which culminated in the Gamecocks winning their first-ever SEC Eastern division championship. This year, Garcia’s completion percentage has plunged to 51.7 percent, his quarterback rating is down to 107.7 and he’s thrown nine interceptions in just five games.

It’s not just bad numbers, though.

Garcia following Auburn loss.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Lutz, Florida native has badly missed wide open receivers. He’s made awful decisions in (and out) of the pocket. He’s thrown the ball directly into the arms of waiting defenders. In fact, Garcia should have recorded his tenth interception of the season late in the Gamecocks’ 16-13 loss to Auburn a week ago, but Tigers’ defensive back Neiko Thorpe dropped the ball.

Meanwhile, Garcia has thrown only four touchdown passes – and one of them was a dump-off toss that running back Marcus Lattimore took 52 yards for a score against Vanderbilt. Another was a badly under-thrown deep pass that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery managed to grab by out-muscling and undersized Auburn defensive back.

As a result of his shoddy play, Garcia has been benched in favor of sophomore Connor Shaw – who will start Saturday’s game against the University of Kentucky.

Ironically, Shaw started the Gamecocks’ season-opener against East Carolina but was yanked after USC fell behind 17-0 in the second quarter.

South Carolina did wind up scoring 56 points against the Pirates, but the Gamecocks benefited from a defensive touchdown, a special teams touchdown and several second-half fumbles that gave their offense a very short field to work with. Against Georgia, the Gamecocks put 45 points on the board – but once again USC’s sluggish offense benefited from a 68-yard fake punt and a pair of defensive touchdowns.

Since then, though, USC hasn’t cracked the 25-point threshold – in large part thanks to Garcia’s abysmal play.

Causing some fans to put more credence in the rumors of foul play is the fact that Garcia’s quarterback coach G.A. Mangus was suspended for his role in a gambling scandal at the University of Florida. Mangus was a back-up and was never accused of shaving points, but he was accused of gambling on college football games.

While the Gamecocks are 4-1 on the season, they’re 1-4 against the point spread – covering against Vanderbilt but failing to cover against East Carolina, Georgia, Navy and (obviously) Auburn.

Take a look …

USC v. ECU (Gamecocks favored by 20, over-under 61.5) Final score: USC 56, ECU 37
USC v. Georgia (Gamecocks favored by 3, over-under 52) Final score: USC 45 Georgia 42
USC v. Navy (Gamecocks favored by 16.5, over-under 58) Final score: USC 24 Navy 21
USC v. Vanderbilt (Gamecocks favored by 16 – over-under 50) Final score: USC 21 Vanderbilt 3
USC v. Auburn (Gamecocks favored by 10.5 – over-under 60) Final score: Auburn 16, USC 13

According to David Purdum of Rivals.com, Garcia is 19-19 against the point spread in games in which he either started or received extensive playing time.

As we said, like the other rumors currently circulating about Garcia, we have a hard time believing that this one is true – no matter how loud the back chatter is becoming. Having said that, we’ve spoken with at least one other reporter who is currently investigating the point-shaving allegations – and we’re told that another reporter is looking into them as well.

Sources close to Garcia vigorously deny the allegations. One pro-Garcia source blames the athletics department for “putting Stephen through hell” during the 2011 off-season – suspending him twice and temporarily removing his scholarship.

“They broke his will,” the source says.

Garcia’s status dominated headlines during the off-season – beginning with our explosive report in March detailing his shenanigans at the Chick-Fil-A bowl in Atlanta last December. Those exploits earned Garcia a one-week suspension at the beginning of spring practice – but the real drama began in early April when USC suspended Garcia indefinitely for his conduct at a “life skills” event organized by the Southeastern Conference.

Garcia against Georgia

While there are conflicting reports regarding what happened at this event, it is widely believed that Pauline Hyman – wife of USC athletics director Eric Hyman – was involved with the event and was instrumental in convincing her husband to suspend Garcia. Pauline Hyman – who runs the school’s “life skills” program – is considered to be the athletic department’s “Miss Manners,” which obviously makes her a capable foil to the hard-partying quarterback.

Eric Hyman has denied his wife’s involvement – although he and the school failed to answer a host of questions regarding the event as well as Pauline Hyman’s alleged connection to it. As part of the suspension, the school also blocked Garcia from renewing his scholarship.

Incidentally, the Gamecocks are favored by three touchdowns against Kentucky on Saturday – a line that actually moved 2.5 points in the Gamecocks’ favor after Spurrier announced that he was benching Garcia in favor of Shaw.

What do you think? Is it possible that Garcia’s poor play is a result of a point-shaving scandal?

Again, we don’t … but the fact that such a rumor is swirling is a testament to just how poorly he’s been playing.

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Pics: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina

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