Somewhere, there are people wondering if South Carolina is going to overlook Missouri.
Imagine that. Two weeks after the Gamecocks’ season looked bleak, they entered this week’s preparations as 7-point favorites over the Tigers, who’re in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
“We shouldn’t have any letdown. We can just put on some previous films of us,” USC coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s about reset and refocus.”
The focus can be on different things now that it wasn’t long ago. For starters, you’re going to start seeing South Carolina pop up on bowl projection lists. A win against the Tigers gets South Carolina to five victories, with Western Carolina remaining on the schedule.
The Gamecocks have never shied away from the talk of a bowl game.
“That’s something the seniors talked to me about, so that’s something we talk a lot about to our guys, ‘You got to get to six wins,’ and that’s what we plan on doing,” Muschamp said.
The difference this week is other people are actually saying it’s a possibility. CBSSports.com projected Monday that South Carolina will play Oklahoma State in the Texas Bowl.
Another thing you might see soon is the debut of Coach Boom. Many fans have wondered when the fiery side of their new coach would be on display, and while I believe Muschamp is making a concerted effort to tone down his sideline demeanor, there could be a mini-eruption this week. There’s a belief among many football coaches that berating a losing team is counterproductive. The time to really get after your team, the thinking goes, is when things are going well and they might be getting a little full of themselves.
I’ll make a prediction, in fact, that during Tuesday’s news conference Muschamp will say he’s been unhappy with the team’s practices thus far. It’s not that I’m predicting the Gamecocks will have bad practices (and how would we know anyway since practices are closed to the media), but this is a favorite ploy of coaches looking to remind their players of the fragility of winning streaks.
Within an hour after finishing off then-No. 18 Tennessee, Muschamp already was previewing what I’m guessing this week’s theme will be: “Having your eyes in the right spot, playing your block, keeping your head in your gap, tackling well, bringing your feet on tackles, that has nothing to do with ability. That has to do with mental intensity. We didn’t have that (against UMass),” he said.
“We’re not good enough if we don’t have it. We have to have it all the time.”
Muschamp was talking specifically about his defense, but he was talking to his whole team in that moment, and it’ll be worth nothing how he talks about his team this week.
If he believes the Gamecocks are good enough, or now have the potential to be good enough, he can turn from Back Patter to Behind Chewer, that’s probably a good sign.
Who: USC (4-4, 2-4 SEC) vs. Missouri (2-6, 0-4)
When: 4 p.m., Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Line: USC by 7