I know what you’re waiting for. Normally, this is when you get your weekly gameday forecast from Joseph “Joe” Person.
But the greatest former William & Mary tight end to ever become a sportswriter is out this week. So it will be left up to me, the greatest former Albert Einstein High School centerfielder to become a sportswriter.
(Eat your heart out, Emery Jones).
So what do we say about a game that many expect to be a blowout? How about: what if it isn’t a blowout? Then there might be reason to worry, Gamecock fans.
I keep going back to the 2007 season, when USC had some great wins – at Georgia, and home against No. 9 Kentucky. The Gamecocks were riding a stout defense and an offense that did what it needed to do. Sound familiar?
Looking back, there were two warning signs for that team. It had trouble putting away Louisiana Lafayette, winning 28-14, and only pulled away in the second half of a 38-3 win over S.C. State, in a game that was as sloppy as many around here have seen.
Now here comes S.C. State again, and once again USC is looking good, a 3-1 start coming off the win over then-No. 4 Mississippi. But the week before, against Florida Atlantic, USC was lackluster in a 38-16 win, leading by just one at the half.
Let’s give due respect to S.C. State: It’s well-coached with Buddy Pough, has a bunch of guys who might be at big-time schools if not for academics, and could win the MEAC. But it’s still a lower-level team, and if South Carolina truly is a top 25 team, it should win this decisively.
Steve Spurrier is taking it seriously enough that he’s not talking blowout, even talking about expecting a “down-to-the-wire” game. Maybe so, but here’s betting that if the game is in single digits, Spurrier will be far from happy.
There are three possible outcomes:
- USC wins going away and in impressive fashion, showing that it’s serious about playing every week hard, and is appropriately focused.
- USC wins a bit too close for comfort, or plays sloppy in victory, leading one to wonder whether the Kentucky visit will be a serious trap game.
- S.C. State pulls off the improbable upset, and all you-know-what breaks loose at USC.
If the latter is going to happen, S.C. State will have to use clock – which it can do with its talented runner Will Ford. Quarterback Malcolm Long can also guide a successful passing attack.
(By the way, when Long was a senior at Gaffney High School, he was picked Mr. Football in South Carolina, beating out Willy Korn. That’s not looking like too much of a fluke now, is it?)
Beyond that, here are a few things to watch for Saturday night:
- USC’s quarterback situation. Stephen Garcia was in a red practice jersey all week, but his snaps were limited because of the rib injury. Backup Reid McCollum will see playing time regardless of the score, Spurrier declared on Thursday. And don’t be surprised if Zac Brindise, who got a number of snaps early in the week, also sees some time.
- Does the offensive line miss Quintin Richardson, who’s expected to miss the game with the flu and shoulder problems? And who is the left tackle, Jarriel King or Kyle Nunn?
- Tori Gurley was benched because of a bad week of practice, despite being the team’s leading receiver. Does he still get out there early and often? If not, does it mean more looks for Alshon Jeffery?
- Does USC’s injury-riddled defensive line withstand the S.C. State rushing attack?
- Finally, does S.C. State’s marching band do a Michael Jackson tribute? Because that would be really cool, and probably really, really good.
Score prediction:USC 41, S.C. State 10