Posts Tagged ‘Mark Richt’

It’s not football season until I try to lower your expectations about the Gamecocks, right? Okay, you don’t have to answer that question. This could really be a season like no other. Because of that, I think we need to look a little deeper at what to expect. (Translation: I’m just making up an excuse to write more) We’ll split this preview up into three parts:

Part 1: Where is this team in the national pecking order?
Part 2: 1st half predictions
Part 3: 2nd half predictions and other useless stuff

So, have you taken a look at the schedule yet? Because I’m a man who’s about full disclosure, I’ve probably looked at the schedule 4 times before today. In a related story, I wasn’t really excited about football season until about a week ago. Anyway, the typical September cupcake feast (excluding the opener, which happens in August anyway so it doesn’t count) gives way to a pretty brutal October (vs. Georgia, at LSU, at Florida) and the typical end of season challenge (hosting Tennessee, Arkansas and Wofford and traveling to Clemson). It’s not necessarily easy street, but that’s a good thing. Win 9 games, and the team is sure to be looked upon favorably by the pollsters. Win 10 or more games, and you’re a contender. Go 7-5? Well, “the schedule was difficult”. It’s a win-win, you guys!!! Anyway, let’s see how this season turns out, shall we?

August 30: @ Vanderbilt (Thursday)
I will forever be terrified of Thursday night games. At least America doesn’t have to suffer through listening to and looking at Craig James. (For what it’s worth, I do like David Pollack quite a bit. I appreciate any guy that can effectively use the word “cat” in a sentence, yet not in reference to the animal.) Anyway, you can actually say “Vanderbilt has a decent team” and actually mean it. Jordan Rodgers is a decent QB who should only improve, and if you have time to have a dance off during a team meeting, well, I think you’re doing something right. However, I think the Gamecocks have enough to overcome whatever the Commodores may throw at them. Try as they might, the Gamecocks have yet to lose an opener under Steve Spurrier. I think that continues here. WIN

September 8: vs. East Carolina
So, it looks like the Gamecocks will travel to Greenville to play the Pirates in…2015. That’s right around the corner! Now that things have shifted to a “playoff“, I really hope that the Gamecocks will start to schedule legitimate opponents for the non conference portion of the schedule. (And you can take your “but the SEC schedule is tough enough!” nonsense and shove it up your ass. I’m not sorry I said that.) Of course, the Gamecocks are not alone in “soft-ish” scheduling:
-USC Trojans (They’re the “realer” USC): Host Hawaii and Syracuse
-Oregon: Host Arkansas State and Tennessee Tech. Who? Exactly.
-Florida State: Hosting Murray State and Savannah State
-Oklahoma State: Hosting Savannah State and Louisiana-Lafayette. Savannah State is popular, it seems!
-Clemson: Hosting Ball State and Furman
Sure, you can argue that “everybody else is doing it”. That doesn’t make the actual game any more exciting. Anyway, East Carolina made the Gamecocks sweat for a while, and lost by a wide margin even though South Carolina turned it over approximately 59 times. The first game jitters should be out of the way, so this will be a WIN.

September 15: vs. UAB
The Blazers are no strangers to being a sacrificial lamb playing South Carolina in September. And, given that South Carolina didn’t have a good result the last time they were in Birmingham, I can see why this game is usually played in Columbia (that and, well, who wants to watch a football game in Birmingham?!!? I don’t know anything about UAB, and I’m not sure that I really *need* to know anything. What I do know is that this should be a rather easy WIN for the Gamecocks.

September 22: vs. Missouri
It’s the first game of the season (that I’m actually interested in)!!! This game probably got 42 times easier knowing that Henry Josey won’t be playing. Of course, I didn’t know who Henry Josey was before ten minutes ago. I really feel like Missouri is an intriguing team this year. I think they’re playing with house money (who knows what that means? I don’t) as a new member of the division, and it’s not like they’re a terrible squad. I think they’re better than Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee. They host Georgia, and they’ve beaten a top ranked Oklahoma in Columbia (Missouri) before. I think this should be a WIN for South Carolina, but only because they’re in “Never Forget” mode about the 2005 Independence Bowl. I really feel like this game could go either way. (Okay, maybe I’m the only person still bitter about that game. Whatever.)

September 29: @ Kentucky
This is a “Never Forget” game also. South Carolina rolled into Lexington in 2010 fresh off a win over (at the time) top ranked Alabama. After building a 28-10 lead, things fell apart. And by “fell apart”, I mean “the winning TD catch was caught by Kentucky’s best player who was WIDE OPEN“. While I believe that every conference road game presents a unique set of challenges, I still think that South Carolina is better than Kentucky. Doesn’t that still count for something? WIN

October 6: vs. Georgia
Did you know the Gamecocks play 9 weeks in a row to open the season? Jesus, be an ice bath! Of course, this is the first of three weeks against ranked (hopefully) opponents. A pu pu platter of Georgia, LSU, and Florida isn’t necessarily the most fun way to celebrate the midpoint in the season. To be honest with you, I’d rather play this game earlier in the season. Every good team has usually hit their stride come October, so the advantage of “not finding your groove yet” won’t be there for this game. I think this game will be a LOSS for a few reasons:
1. While Mark Richt has probably already lost control of the season, hard to think he could survive three losses in a row to South Carolina.
2. Georgia seems to find a way to win in Columbia. All of the time! I was there for the Blackout in 2004, only to see a 16-0 lead evaporate before our very eyes. That was sad.
(Okay, so maybe I only have two reasons. Whatever.)
I think the Gamecocks have a great team. I just don’t see that team starting out 6-0. I’d rather be wrong, but we shall see.

Check back for Part 3 to read how I see the rest of the season shaking out

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I could sit here and commit to doing multiple posts about the Gamecocks, but we know that’s not going to happen. I do plan to periodically post about the pulse of the team on a semi regular basis. Of course, since I’ve already done one all South Carolina post, this could fulfill my requirement.

Say what you will, but this will probably be the play of the season.

Before we begin, I should let you let me have it. You may recall that I had the Gamecocks pegged to lose their first game against East Carolina. For what it’s worth, that was a bold call. And admit it: You were scared shitless when the lead for East Carolina grew to 17. You were also terrified when the Pirates were up 24-14. Yours truly was ready to write the epithet for this game after seeing four turnovers in the first half (And, I was justly called out for doing so).

But, of course, ECU decided to get cute and commit their own mistakes, and South Carolina did what good teams do—take advantage of opportunities. Sure, giving up 37 points is not ideal, but considering that it took ECU 56 pass attempts to get 260 yards, you have to feel good about the, uh, efficiency. Anyway, I should own up to being dead wrong. That win says a lot about resiliency of the Gamecocks. And let’s be honest, that’s not a word you could use for this team before. So, I will gladly eat crow here, and realize that maybe this team will be awesome after all.

Anyway, I’ve “watched” most of the first two games of the season, and there have been a few things that have stuck out to me the most. I want to say that I have a finite number of topics to throw out, but I’m a man who’s not about limits. Anyway, here’s what I’ve noticed thus far.

1. Marcus Lattimore is somehow underrated.
If you were to ask someone who is the best player in college football right now, many of them will mention Andrew Luck. (I’m not saying that they’re wrong, but let’s be honest—if you’re tall, white, and play quarterback with at least a lick of common sense, you’ll be loved in college football. More on that later, maybe) I watched one of the ESPN analysts talk about his incredible balance. I thought, “Man, this is one play. Surely that was an irrelevant fact, right?” Well, the game against Georgia showed off his balance and then some. He also has an insane ability to always fall forward. He is supremely a running back. There’s not a lot of flash to his game, but let’s be honest, the flashy guys don’t last very long anyway (Unless you’re Barry Sanders). It’s almost like you look away for a second, and then…boom, Marcus has 150 yards rushing. It’s truly a special thing.

2. Stephen Garcia won’t get it done playing like this.
Well, maybe he will? I mean, did you think that the Gamecocks would have 5198 defensive and special teams touchdowns? (It’s possible that the actual number could be slightly exaggerated.) Anyway, take a look at his stats. If you start weeping, that’s okay. He’s not completing half of his passes, which is waaaaaayyyy down from what he did last year. Also, if you looked at some of those passes, they were way off. Not even close. That’s…not good. The decent QBs are completing at least 65 percent of their passes (Okay, maybe 62). Also, the interceptions won’t cut it later in the season (Of course, they still could—at this point, what’s the hardest game…at Arkansas?). Sure, he made two great throws (one for a TD to Alshon Jeffrey, another a key conversion to Ace Sanders). But, at some point, opponents will key against the run. Will Mr. Garcia be bologna or filet (courtesy ESPN First Take)? Unfortunately, the jury is still out.

3. The coaching staff BELIEVES in this team
Sure, Steve Spurrier seems to like his “Aw, shucks, we’ll see what happens out there.” strategy for the media (which really drives yours truly up the wall, but this post isn’t ALL about me). But think about it. He purposely held out Stephen Garcia, probably knowing that it was Stephen who gave the team the best chance to win. Of course, I’m sure he didn’t think that:
1. Connor Shaw would be so ridiculously flat
2. That Garcia would bring so much energy to the team and the crowd. I mean, the players practiced too. So, shouldn’t they have shown a little more confidence with Connor Shaw leading the offense?

But that pales in comparison to the move pulled off in the second quarter of the Georgia game. Facing a fourth down, the punt team came out. Well, I’m pretty sure that Melvin Ingram is not always the upback. (Don’t worry, I’m looking out for you. A quick explanation on the upman for those of you that were wondering.) I mentioned this on Twitter when it happened, but usually, “trick” plays (I have a problem with calling them trick plays because NOBODY’S BEING TRICKED. All the stuff is still happening on the field!) are usually a last gasp sort of thing. Teams pull them out when they think there’s no chance. (Pull them out—DRINK!) But having your 275 lb defensive tackle as the upman, who takes the snap and runs for a touchdown? That’s an Eff You, folks. The coaching staff made this call because they knew they were going to win this game. No other way to put it. That’s a trust and level of confidence that I just haven’t seen before. (Sure, it helps when you have great players) If the coaches believe in the players, then the players will believe in themselves. And if the players believe in themselves, well…I think you get the point.

4. The defense…uh, um…
Sure, a win is a win. But when you’ve given up 79 points in two games…that’s not very good!!! I think the Seattle Mariners have scored a total of 79 runs all year, and they’ve played over 140 games! Anyway, it’s hard to deny that there are playmakers on the defensive side for this team (Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney, sometimes Stephon Gilmore, et al). And there have been big plays made. But…Aaron Murray had a pretty good day minus the turnovers, (Jerry Jones could not be reached for comment) and Isiah Crowell ran wild. While you want to believe that things will pipe down for the defense, it’s going to be hard to expect 21 points off of special teams and turnovers each game. And, with Navy coming to welcome the team home Saturday, this would be a good time to get things in order (last I checked, Navy was pretty good at running the football). And let’s be honest for a minute: Has there been any time where you could remember a stretch of consistently good defensive play by South Carolina? It sure would be a good time to start.

5. This is not a “me first” team.
I am a self-proclaimed “old school/old guard” guy when it comes to sports (Of course, the fact that I have to stretch twice a day just to avoid knee pain probably just makes me OLD). One thing that annoys me to no end is when players get all boastful after making a tackle/first down/mildly significant play. (I also hate standing at home plate to watch your home run and the designated hitter—but hey, that’s just me) Anyway, that’s not what you see with these guys. Hell, Marcus Lattimore is so gracious that I think his demeanor would be illegal in at lest 15 countries. Even after coming in and pretty much saving the day, Stephen Garcia was munching down on the humble pie after the game. Melvin Ingram seemingly shrugged off the fact that he made three sensational plays (the fake punt, picking up the fumble recovery, and recovering the onside kick by Georgia). I’m not saying that you should never celebrate. But this team as a whole seems focused. That’s a BIG deal.

So, what do these five things mean? Should we all start booking our trips to New Orleans? Are the shortcomings just a recipe for disaster (that road trip to Starkville, Knoxville and Fayetville is not only going to be a Redneckpalooza, but those will be tough games)? It’s too early to tell. But with what this team has done so far, but you have to like what you see if you’re a Gamecock fan. Let’s just hope that this isn’t all thrown out of the window this Saturday. (No, that wasn’t a jinx)

Author’s note: The opinions in this post specifically are just…opinions. That means, I will pretend to not know what you’re talking about when it’s Week 11, and the Gamecocks are 5-5. Wait a minute, this is foreshadowing!

Yeah, this guy helped me out a little bit.

My name is Jordy McKever, and I can literally talk myself into anything. Last year, you may recall that I foolishly boldly tried to talk my readers into a

Unfortunately, this is Garcia’s greatest moment. Say it together with me, “Le sigh.”

10-2 regular season for the Gamecocks . Of course, that may have been a stretch. However, the fond memories of Stephen Garcia bounce passes, the HBC’s double limp, and Mark Ingram playing 1 vs. 11 (and winning, see the play-by-play for the drive that put Alabama up 2006) are still fresh in my mind.

So, why in the world would I do a season prediction blog again? Well, THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE WHO LIKE SPORTS DO. Bold predictions are all we’re good for. I was going to use Accuscore to assist in looking at each game, but I had no idea that actually using the site cost $130 per month.* So anyway, you’re stuck with me. You decide on whether or not that’s a good thing.

*Quick question: Who the hell would pay that for a site that only PREDICTS stuff? NONE OF THIS IS ACTUAL FACT. This is rather ridiculous. I’m not down with Accuscore. I have no idea why this even upsets me. I can make bad predictions all by myself, guys!!!

(More background: I couldn’t tell you who’s in the starting lineup. I have not attended a practice/scrimmage/group outing where people complain about Stephen Garcia and ticket prices. I don’t even know the schedule from memory. Wait…maybe I do. Southern Miss, Georgia, Furman, Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, Clemson? Somebody fact check that for me! Anyway, this is just more proof that none of what I’m saying should be taken seriously. Unless, I am right, of course.)

So anyway, let me stop wasting your time. Time to get my prediction on!

Sept. 2: vs. Southern Miss
Somehow, the Gamecocks have been featured on the opening game of the season for the past three years. What on Earth makes ESPN fall for this shit In the better brand of football NFL, the opening night game is usually reserved for the defending Super Bowl champion. Having said that, the Gamecocks have won all three of these games. Of course, with a cupcake non-conference foe to start things, why not continue this streak? WIN

Sept 11: vs. Georgia
The number 1 question I’ve been asked this year is, “Are we going to beat Georgia?” It’s a valid question to ask. Georgia is the closest SEC member we have geographically, and the game even has a stupid name: Between the Hedges! Anyway, the numbers, um, don’t look good. Last win vs. Georgia in Columbia? Um, gulp, 2000. And Georgia has something to prove. They’ll have a new QB, the coach is on the hot seat and their former AD may or may not have been behaving badly this summer. Sorry folks, not a good look for the Gamecocks here. LOSS

Sept. 18: vs. Furman
Exhibit #1 why college football will never be as good as the NFL. These “top teams” are consistently playing lower level competition. Save your “but the conference schedule is tough enough” for another day. Check out some of the non-conference “clashes” for some of the top teams in the country: (rankings in parenthesis)
-Alabama (1): vs. San Jose State, at Duke, vs. Georgia State (yes, the team starting their first season ever)
-Florida (4): vs. Miami (OH), vs. Appalachian State (and no, this is not 2007, folks)
-Texas (5): vs. Rice, vs. Florida Atlantic
-Nebraska (7): vs. Western Kentucky, Idaho and South Dakota State
-Oregon (11): vs. New Mexico and Portland State le sigh.
Truth be told, the Gamecocks are just like the other teams in scheduling such cream puffs. Still, it’s ridiculous. I must say that until there’s a playoff you can’t really lay claim to being the “best in the land” when your schedule includes wins over San Jose State and Georgia State. Having said that, I think the Furman game is a WIN.

Sept. 25: at Auburn
Well, um, can’t say that this is the first road game you want to have. Auburn is one of those teams that is allegedly on the rise. Of course, it may be long before people remember that

Wait, Auburn has a new coach now?!!? Oh.

Gene Chizik was a terrible coach at Iowa State before being hired by Auburn. Since this is a bizarro blog and all, why not go ahead and say that the Gamecocks will take this game? WIN

Oct. 9th: vs. Alabama
OK. Stay with me here for a second. You’ll have an undefeated, likely still top-ranked Alabama coming to town against a likely ranked South Carolina. Anyone with sense would make this a night game. Alabama didn’t just cakewalk to the title last year; they had some definite near misses along the way (Tennessee, anyone?). Well, at this point, you would think that this would be the game where the Gamecocks throw caution to the wind. The zone blocking works like magic against Alabama’s inexperienced defense. My roommate and I kidnap Mark Ingram the night before the game. Stephen Garcia (or Connor Shaw) makes a play (or three) that makes everyone say, “Now THAT’S a quarterback!” What will this all lead to? A WIN. Yeah, I said it.

Oct. 16th: at Kentucky
If there was ever a time to have a “letdown game,” this would be it. Everybody’s fired up after taking down the top ranked team in the country. Now people think the Gamecocks are contenders. Who needs to be ready for Kentucky? I mean, when was the last time the Gamecocks even lost to Kentucky? (It’s 1999, if you care to know.) I’m going to continue with the bold theme here and call this a LOSS.

Oct. 23rd: at Vanderbilt
One may consider this as a letdown game possibility, but, um, that would mean that we always beat Vanderbilt. I’ll let you guess as to who has won 2 out of the last three meetings. Anyway, Vanderbilt’s got a new coach. Which means that somehow people will care even less about football at Vanderbilt there should be a lot of…adjusting! Too much time for that instead of…beating the Gamecocks!! WIN

Nov. 6th: vs. Arkansas
This game really depends on whether or not Ryan Mallett is contending for the Heisman Trophy. As Darren McFadden, Tim Tebow, and Mark Ingram before him, the Gamecocks know how to help a Heisman campaign. I suppose it might be time that South Carolina decided to, you know, stop aiding Heisman campaigns and WIN against the Hogs.

Nov 13th: at Florida
You know the history: One win against the Gators in the past 5342 years. You may also recall the 56-6 whitewashing that took place in 2008. Really, whatever you recall, it’s never good when it comes to Carolina vs. the Gators. But hey, Peyton Manning never beat Florida either! But since this is a bizarro blog, why not

No more Tim Tebow bowling guys over! Now's our chance!

having Carolina beat Florida? Seriously, they’ll have new starters on defense, a new quarterback, and a coach who can’t seem to make up his mind. You may have heard this before, but if there ever was a time to beat Florida…WIN

Nov. 20: vs. Troy
See the Furman section for my thoughts on games like this. To be safe, I’d rather play this game November 14th. That’s right—a day after the Florida game. The Gamecocks would still be pumped over the Florida win. OK, so this game won’t happen until a week later. Still, should be enough for a WIN.

Nov. 27th: at Clemson
Because Georgia will be heading to the SEC Championship, (YEAH, I SAID THAT) there won’t be the excuse of “conserving to get ready for another game.” Having said that, the last Carolina win in Clemson was…oh wait, 2006! You could even talk yourself into a BCS bowl bid, and the first 10-win season since I predicted it last year 1984. Will this be enough to overcome the Tigers? Yes!! WIN

Jan. 1st: Capital One Bowl (vs. Iowa)
How about that, a real bowl game! Well, this would be a great chance to get revenge on that debacle from the Outback Bowl in 2009. And, why not end the season with 11 wins (most ever) and a top ten ranking? This is a bizarro blog! Suspend reality with me, please!!! WIN

So, there you have it. In about 1400 words, I once again see great things for the Gamecocks. It’s a classic “Nobody believed in us!” season indeed. Of course, if I’m wrong, just pretend I never wrote this.