In its past 26 games, South Carolina’s football team has lost four times.
All four of those losses have come on the road, and the No. 14 Gamecocks are about to embark on a three-game road trip that will go a long way toward determining if they are an SEC East contender or an observer in the championship race.
“We just have to have the mentality that we are going to play well on the road,” said senior quarterback Connor Shaw, whose four career losses have come on the road. “It might be a little bit of a mental block for us, but I think we are going to get past that.”
It will be easier against the upcoming competition. South Carolina’s past four road losses have come against then-No. 8 Arkansas, then-No. 9 LSU, then-No. 3 Florida and then-No. 11 Georgia. The upcoming stretch starts today with unranked Arkansas, followed by unranked Tennessee and No. 25 Missouri.
Never miss a local story.
“I think it has a lot to do with the competition,” Shaw said. Still, “it’ll be a challenge for us again, and it’s a challenge we are ready to embrace.”
The television schedule also will give the Gamecocks a break, Shaw believes. Today’s game and next week’s game against Tennessee will kick off a little past noon. (The time for the Missouri game has not been set.) Early games generally produce a less hostile atmosphere than night games.
“I think we are pretty fortunate it’s a noon game,” Shaw said. “Obviously, playing on the road at night makes it a little harder. It’s a great atmosphere. Their fans will be ready. It will be a fun game for us.”
The value of home field advantage, generally factored as three points for the home team in Las Vegas betting lines, has been the subject of plenty of studies recently. The 2011 book “Scorecasting” determined college football teams have one of the most significant home field advantages in sports, with the home team winning 63 percent of the time from 1869 through 2009.
A more recent study by PredictionMachine.com ranked the home field advantage of every team in major college football. The Razorbacks ranked No. 32 in the country, while Tennessee came in at No. 66 and Missouri ranked fourth. (South Carolina ranked No. 31.) However, as the authors of the study pointed out, the results skewed away from traditional powers in the sport. For instance, Alabama ranked No. 106 in the country because the Crimson Tide’s performance on the road is similar to its performance at home.
“We know what we have to do, go in there and go all out,” wide receiver Bruce Ellington said. “They are home. They want to win at home. They are going to give everything they’ve got. We’ve just got to go out and be us and give it everything we’ve got to win.”
Arkansas has been particularly unkind to the Gamecocks. They have lost in their past three trips to Fayetteville, Ark., and have won twice in 10 tries in the state.
Offenses, generally, fare worse on the road because crowd noise can complicate communication and throw off timing, but coach Steve Spurrier believes it is the Gamecocks’ defense that will make the difference Saturday.
“If you go play well and bring your defense with you, you’ve got a chance to win on the road,” Spurrier said. “Hopefully, we’ll bring a defense. If we don’t bring a defense, I don’t know if we can score 40 or so out there, I don’t know.”
Spurrier pointed out that Georgia has averaged 6.5 points in its past two games against South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium and 41.5 in its past two against the Gamecocks in Athens, Ga.
“The environment sometimes gets on you a little bit,” Spurrier said. “A trick to playing well? You just try and go play.”
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
How the SEC teams rank in a recent study by PredictionMachine.com according to the home field advantage of every team in major college football.