Posts Tagged ‘South Carolina’

What are the chances that we see another happy splash like this at the end of this season?

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

How good is this team? No, really.
I imagine that you have some pretty fond memories of last season. The Gamecocks finished 11-2 and beat Nebraska in the Capital One Citrus Bowl, 30-13. First 11 win season in school history, (second double-digit win total overall, more on that later) best final poll ranking ever. Here are some other, um, accolades:
-Wins against Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Clemson in the same season
-Connor Shaw finished second in the SEC in passer rating
-Marcus Lattimore missed the final 6.5 games of the year, yet finished 7th in the SEC in rushing yards
-Went undefeated vs. division opponents
-Beat Clemson for the 3rd year in a row
-Went on a legitimate run *after* losing the returning passer and rusher from the previous season

So, all of these things were great. No, really, they were. Hell, the HBC even gave the team rings (I’m not so sure if that’s the finished product) for their accomplishments. But since I’m supposed to be about perspective, let’s have just a little:
-In the loss to Auburn, the Tigers ran about 238 plays, and the Gamecocks were peeing their pants instead of driving down the field to either tie or take the lead.
-The team got rings for winning, among other things, the Citrus Bowl—which was played in front of about 10,000 empty seats. The Citrus Bowl is still played on New Year’s Day, which is great. But, it’s probably a 3rd tier game at best.
(So maybe it’s hard to really nitpick here. That’s not so bad!)

Anyway, the heights reached last season were dizzying, to say the least. But you have to wonder “Now what?”, right? Is it time to take another step into the rare air of “top five national title contender”, or did South Carolina miss out on taking charge while teams like Florida and Tennessee struggled? Will 11 wins and another 3rd tier (or second tier) bowl game be enough? How quickly would the city burn to the ground if the Gamecocks won the SEC Championship? Will this be a letdown season? What actually qualifies as a “letdown”? Since things could go either way, I’ll yo-yo between signs of a promising season and signs of a letdown. Let’s face it, folks: The “what if” game is really fun!!

Letdown Sign: Breakthrough years are sometimes followed up with breakdown years.
While I may have still been in diapers, I’m sure some of you are quite familiar with the Black Magic season of 1984. At that time, it was the best season EVAR for the Gamecocks. Wins over Georgia, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Florida State and Clemson led to a 10-2 record and a birth in the Gator Bowl against Oklahoma State. That next year? Not so awesome. And no, this isn’t just a South Carolina thing:
-Georgia Tech went 11-3 and to the Orange Bowl in 2008, only to go 6-7 in 2009.
-Kansas went 11-1 and won the Orange Bowl in 2007, but fell to 8-5 in 2008.
-Illinois made it to the Sugar Bowl with a 10-2 record in 2001, but fell to 5-7 in 2002.
-Maryland won 31 games (and the ACC once!) from 2001-03, only to go 5-6 in both 2004 and 2005.
-Ole Miss tripped (sorry, Eli) to 10-3 and the Cotton Bowl in 2003, only to go 4-7 in 2004.
(Of course, these are not elite programs in the slightest. Makes for great comparison to the Gamecocks, you guys.)
I understand that South Carolina went 9-5 in 2010, but if you recall how those last two games turned out, 2010 was definitely a breakthrough. Also, take a guess for how many 9 win seasons South Carolina has had in their history. Still guessing? The answer is 3. By comparison, Oklahoma has had 32 ten win seasons. So, yeah—last year was a breakthrough. Unfortunately, history isn’t very kind to that sort of thing.

Next Level Sign: Stability
For the first time in something like 309 years, Steve Spurrier has a quarterback that he’s pleased with. As I noted before, Connor Shaw was second in the conference in pass efficiency. The offense is no longer just a “See how far Marcus runs, pop five or six hemorrhoids, then throw it deep to Alshon Jeffrey” (my unbiased scout’s take). The offense has a foundation of the zone read, and there are capable receivers around to keep the defense from focusing on just one. Instead of going outside to get a defensive coordinator after Ellis Johnson left for Southern Miss, the team promoted Lorenzo Ward. Nothing “feels” different around here. That’s not really a bad thing at all.

Letdown Sign: Injuries
Okay, so injuries happen. And college football teams carry something like 174 players, so if someone gets hurt then the backup comes in and you’re set, no problem. There’s only one problem: It never works out that way. There is a general consensus that Marcus Lattimore is one of the best running backs in the country. Of course, he missed half of last year with a serious knee injury. I say serious knee injury because the school never said what actually happened to his knee. While there’s plenty of reason to think that Lattimore will play great this year, production after a serious knee injury isn’t really an exact science. Also, do you remember that Connor Shaw suffered two concussions last season (against Arkansas and Nebraska)? The more we learn about head injuries, the worse that sounds…right? Don’t let the drafting of Stephon Gilmore fool you, the South Carolina secondary was not awesome last year. Of course, now the team is down one starter in that part of the defense already. Again, injuries happen. But when thy happen to a team expected to actually do well, um…

Next Level Sign: About those expectations…
Sure, South Carolina starts the season ranked in the Top 10. Football Outsiders says the most likely result for the Gamecocks is 8-4. The average projected wins (still through Football Outsiders—they may be nerds, but they’re usually not wrong) is 7.7, which is lowest among any of the other teams ranked in the top 10. The media members who attended SEC’s media days think that Georgia will win the division. (Of course, Andy Staples favors the Gamecocks) From what I’ve seen, Sports Illustrated is the only major publication that has Georgia ranked below South Carolina (I need to renew my subscription!). Of course, since I have “Great Hype Falls Hard” tattooed on my chest, I think this is great news! If South Carolina continues to win, they’ll surely climb the rankings by default (because at least 3 of the teams ahead in the rankings will lose at some point). This “lying in the weeds” status is just the thing to lead to something awesome. And yes, I used the word “awesome”.

Letdown Sign: IT’S SOUTH CAROLINA!
I was going to use the schedule as a letdown factor, but I “knew” that LSU would likely be on the schedule this season, and The Swamp is only intimidating if Florida is actually good (that remains to be seen). As I mentioned before, the Gamecocks had only had three NINE win seasons, ever. Remember the mostly likely scenario I mentioned before? That would be the 11th eight win season ever. I will agree with you if you were to say that this has been a healthy growth for the Gamecocks. But, of course, that’s not the most difficult thing to do when you’re 11 games over .500—-all time. Remember those “successful” basketball teams from the late nineties? Flamed out in the first round. Even the back-to-back champion baseball team went down in a cloud of Asian-American + gigantic strike zone dust to Arizona. This is just guessing, but I believe there are more people who believe in non football forces (karma, the “football gods”, luck, the moon) when rooting for their team(s). Well, that sort of stuff has never really been on the side of the Gamecocks. There’s a certain Cubs/Clippers/Mets/Maple Leafs aura to the Gamecocks that just hasn’t been shaken…ever. Everything is seemingly in place now. Will that matter, though?

Here’s hoping that I’ve worked you up into a nice enough lather in order to read my predictions for every game next season. To be continued.

I’ve been wanting to write about both of these guys for a while now. So, consider it a double treat.

By popular request, here I am Tebowing for the strength to write this post.

Tim Tebow: Just let it ride, y’all.
I’m pretty sure that I’m a Tebowmaniac. No, I’m not convinced that he can lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Frankly, I don’t know if he could lead the Broncos to eight wins. However, I firmly believe that he belongs in the NFL, and this “thing” that he’s currently doing (It’s like snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, but more like actually going down the throat of defeat and yanking victory out of defeat’s esophagus) is working, whether I want to admit that or not. People talk about the “it” factor in sports often (probably too much). Somehow, Tim Tebow has been able to get his teammates, the city, and the most polarizing sports pundit in America to believe in him. That’s remarkable.

You may be surprised to know that Aaron Rodgers has 31 touchdown passes against just four interceptions this year. Or that there are four quarterbacks who have thrown for more than 3000 yards already this season. None of this has really mattered since Tim Tebow has entered the equation. I can honestly admit that his “classic quarterback” pedigree is nearly nonexistent. He’s not an accurate passer. Only Taylor Martinez has a worse throwing motion (probably on the entire planet). As a matter of fact, the reason why he runs so much (and has the 7:1 TD:INT ratio) is because he rarely throws it. Even with his success and popularity, it seems that the Broncos are still hoping to find a front-line quarterback in next year’s draft (Of course, you can’t convince me that John Elway knows what he’s doing yet, Von Miller not withstanding). It’s not fair to mention Tebow’s success without pointing out his shortcomings.

Even with his shortcomings, (and the notion that he did not “earn” the starting QB position in Denver) he is still the most discussed player in the NFL right now. The fascination with Tebow has carried over from college, and because the NFL is so popular, Tebow has infiltrated the mainstream. Peter King shared an email that he got from a guy who overheard two other guys in London arguing about Tebow’s merits as a quarterback. After Thursday night’s game, I posted this on Facebook:

Here’s my thing on Tebow: He’s the outlier. He can’t hit open receivers, his throwing motion looks like a root canal I think, but he makes things happen. No rhyme or reason. BUT WE DON’T NEED ONE. Just let the good, really unbelievable times roll.

I followed that up with this:

People spend so much time talking about how he can’t throw. Or how bad he looks out on the field. Or how they would be offended if they only threw 8 passes in a game (SHUT UP STEVE YOUNG). Sometimes, there are things you can’t explain. I’ve been watching football for 20 years, and I sure as hell can’t explain THIS. So…I won’t. I’ll just watch and spaz out on Twitter when Tebow does what he did in the fourth quarter tonight.

I’m not saying that you should do exactly as I have (though the world would be a better place if you did!) when it comes to Tebow. But whether we like it or not, this Tebow wave will last for as long as he’s in the NFL. Instead of letting it affect your blood pressure, just let. It. Ride.

Dabo Swinney
I’m going to put it on the table, folks: Dabo Swinney is my favorite coach in any sport. Ever. That is pretty delusional coming from someone who roots for the Gamecocks. (But Clemson is our RIVAL, right? Well, “they’ve” beaten “us” almost twice as many times as “we’ve” beaten “them”…so it’s really difficult for me to really have any hatred toward Clemson.) Here’s a little trivia about Dabo: His real name is William Swinney. He got the name “Dabo” from his family because his brother was trying to say “that boy”–but apparently “Dabo” came out instead (and yes, I got that from Wikipedia, so I “know it’s real”).

I’m not sure what the general consensus on Swinney is. Opinions seem to range from “he’s a bumbling idiot who’s nothing more than a glorified cheerleader” to “he’s only good because he has Rob Spence as an offensive coordinator!” Three thoughts here:
1. Swinney majored in business administration at Alabama, and was on the All-SEC Honor Roll team in college.
2. The Tigers were in the ACC conference championship in 2009. It’s not like they suddenly got good.
3. Sure, we’ve seen Happy Dabo. Even more than once. Is this really supposed to be a bad thing?

I’m sold on the guy. This is really cliche, but Clemson really seems to take on the personality of their coach. When they’re playing well, they’re full of energy. It’s almost like they come in an unstoppable wave. At the end of the game, there’s Dabo saying something that will get you fired up (or at least that’s the intent). Maybe I’m just used to Mr. Fidgety I Usually Hate What My Team Is Doing (Steve Spurrier). Maybe I’m easily influenced. Maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, I think it’s time that you should start appreciating him. He’s a breath of fresh air to the tight-lipped coaches that are full of football speak.

(Of course, if this Daboslurp I’m pulling results in a Gamecock victory Saturday, then I’ll do this every year.)

How are Tebow and Dabo related? Well, most of their detractors are convinced that both are all hype. Also, I seem to work myself up in a pretty good lather whenever talking about either individual. Also, they’re white men who have mentioned Jesus in postgame interviews. That’s four things! So, obviously this post makes complete sense! I’m sure that your minds are already made up about either guy. But it’s nice to see another point of view…every few years or so.

What are your thoughts on Tim Tebow? What about Dabo Swinney? Do you think that either person will ever be properly evaluated by fans/journalists/critics?

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.

In the 20 years that I’ve been watching sports, I could probably find about 34962 things that really stood out to me (Hey there, LeBron James!). However, since themes are cooler, I will turn them into twenty. Here’s the first of 20 sports moments (sincce 1990 that have made me the psycho sports fan that I am today. Cue the music!

This is not a sight that people are used to seeing. Well, people who like the Gamecocks, that is.

As fate would have it, I’m a fan of teams that usually disappoint when it matters the most (does the phrase “14 consecutive division titles, but only one World Series championship” mean anything to you?). Amongst the Braves, Panthers, Bobcats, Chargers (Nate Kaeding, le sigh.) and Gamecocks, I could have shed enough tears to fill an ocean. Alas, I’m a man, I’m 40! so I don’t cry (over sports). Either way, plenty of disappointment to go around.

The Gamecocks have seemingly been able to create so much disappointment to the point that my other teams could win titles every year, and I would still be depressed when even thinking about the Gamecocks. There have been many theories, from the Chicken Curse (check number 3 on this page) to the Confederate flag curse (this is somewhat verbatim from a guy at my barber shop: “South Carolina won’t win a DAMN THANG TIL THEY TAKE THAT FUCKIN FLAG OFF THE STATE HOUSE GROUNDS.”). It’s not like the school has had only mediocre players (Alex English, Justin Smoak, Landon Powell, George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe, Dunta Robinson, Demetrius Summers to name a few) and coaches (OK, so Sparky Woods may not wake up the echoes. I get that!). Of course, I can wax poetic about the “rabid fan base,” but that really doesn’t explain the long line of disappointing finishes. How disappointing? Like this:

  • In consecutive years as a 2 (1997) and 3 seed (98) (respectively) in the NCAA basketball tournament, the Gamecocks lost in the first round to Coppin State (a 15 seed) and Richmond (14 seed).
  • An undefeated 1984 Gamecock football team lost the next to last game of the season…at home. To Navy.
  • On the road against top ranked Florida, South Carolina has two field goals and an extra point blocked to lose…by one point.

I could continue to go on, but I may or may not break my laptop. The letdowns above made the championship over UCLA that much more amazing. I didn’t really keep up with Gamecock baseball (save for one regular season game back in April) throughout the season, and after losing the first game to Oklahoma in the College World Series, I didn’t really like our chances. Then, um, they won every game after that.

I was on my way home from work when Scott Wingo got on base in the 11th. I was hoping that I could actually get home in time to see the winning run score. Well, Whit Merrifield had other plans. Once his hit dropped in the outfield, (allowing Wingo to score) I let out a scream that The Lady described as “the scream the alien let out when it was killed by the Predator.” (What can I say, I got a little excited). I then came home to go a little crazy on Facebook, (this file is safe, I promise) did a little more yelling, and watched the highlights from the game about 46 times. It was just hard to belive that South Carolina had been able to finally break through.

Of course, the celebration was not done. I’m thinking that if they had the “Cock Rally” at Williams-Brice Stadium, it would have been filled. My own estimate of the crowd at the Colonial Life Arena

This is really the only part of the alma mater that people know.

was about 7 million, but I could be wrong. Nobody cared that they were showing the game again, they still went crazy once Scott Wingo crossed home plate to win the championship. There was even more yelling once the team finally made it to the arena. There was also a cheesy parade, and the Gamecock flag waved at the top of the State house for a little while (take THAT, Sons of the Confederacy!). It proves that no matter what, people like winners. And it also means that people can’t just chuckle when I mention that I attended the University of South Carolina. Well, they still can. But I can now throw this championship out as something to, uh, stand on. And it also gives me a great start to 20 for 20!