I said before the season that South Carolina’s game at Arkansas on Oct. 12 would be the one where the Gamecocks stubbed their toe, and they would use that loss as motivation and make the SEC Championship Game. I based that on a few things, most notably being that I expected USC to beat Georgia, the fact that USC hardly ever plays well at Arkansas and that after beginning 5-0, that game came at the time where USC has tripped in years past.
Perhaps the toe-stubbing has been fast-forwarded. The Georgia loss has changed the season.
I believe the Gamecocks’ coaches and players are taking the Georgia loss the only way they can. They have to believe that a trip to Atlanta is still possible — and it is, although the likelihood of it is thin — and they have to play from Saturday on as if the same circumstances that kept them out of Atlanta the past two years will be reversed this year. If, at the end, it doesn’t happen, USC would still be sitting on 10-11 wins and have an eye on a major bowl game.
There are still issues for USC to work out. I’m anxious to see if Georgia’s offense was that good or was USC’s defense that bad last week. What will the adjustments be, will it be noticeable they are working or will it simply be a matter of players executing better? Will the defense get better because it won’t be facing the Bulldogs’ galaxy of playmakers?
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Mostly, will USC have the kind of heart and gumption to overcome opponents when the talent is equaled?
The season sits on a fulcrum, and Saturday’s game will give all of us a good idea of which side is going to be heavier.