David Cloninger

Gamecocks have the surprise element and get the nod

Could Elliott Fry’s leg be the difference Thursday?
Could Elliott Fry’s leg be the difference Thursday? Special to The State

I have no idea how to pick this game.

South Carolina is a complete mystery. Freshmen at skill positions on offense, perhaps at quarterback, and the most dependable guys are tight ends and the left tackle. The defense has a lot of familiar faces, but as a unit, it finished dead last in the SEC last year and lost its best player.

I don’t buy many fans’ retort of, “Yeah, but it’s Vanderbilt,” either. Gone are the days when anyone, especially the Gamecocks, can just show up and beat Vandy because it’s Vandy. The Commodores have a lot of returning talent, but like the Gamecocks have, anybody that’s coming back is coming back after a lousy year.

I don’t think the atmosphere will hurt USC. That’s where “It’s Vanderbilt” rings true, because these kids aren’t exactly known for forcing the other team to call timeout due to noise. There will be a few players on the Gamecocks’ sideline that saw more belligerent students when they played at Gaffney, Summerville or Northwestern.

I can’t say that USC’s revamped defense will be able to stop Ralph Webb, or Kyle Shurmur when he should be throwing at a weak secondary as often as he can. I can’t say the Gamecocks don’t see their future settled in one series if McIlwain/Bentley/Turner et al turn into the 1990 49ers.

All I can say is that Vanderbilt has the pressure on it, while USC has the surprise element.

And a great kicker.