Josh Kendall

Is East Carolina taking a ‘jab’ at its bigger neighbor?

Game preview: USC defense, offense eye fast start in home opener

The State's Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview and predict the Gamecocks' game against East Carolina, set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.
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The State's Josh Kendall and David Cloninger preview and predict the Gamecocks' game against East Carolina, set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Throughout the game notes handed out by East Carolina’s sports information department, the group of conferences commonly known as the Power Five is referred to as the “Power Five.” Maybe it’s just a coincidence or maybe the overzealous use of quote marks is the American Athletic Conference team’s way of poking at its bigger neighbor.

If it’s the former, never mind. If it’s the latter, well, good for them for having fun with it. The Pirates game notes point out that East Carolina has won six of its last eight games against “Power Five” schools, and South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was quick to point out that fact to open his news conference this week.

“It’s a tough team now,” South Carolina defensive lineman Dante Sawyer said. “We are not taking them lightly. They are going to challenge us. We know as a defense we have to come out firing on all cylinders and come out and play how we know we can play.”

All of this is true, and the Pirates absolutely are capable of beating South Carolina on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium at 4 p.m. However, what you’re not hearing about is the fact that East Carolina has lost seven straight and nine of its last 11 against SEC teams. In fact, the last time the Pirates beat an SEC team was in 1999 when they beat the Gamecocks.

This is a team South Carolina, even a struggling South Carolina, should beat. East Carolina thrives on points. The Pirates have won 29 of the last 34 games in which they’ve scored 30 or more points and lost 18 straight when scoring 20 or fewer. If the Gamecocks tackle, they should be able to keep ECU around the 20-point mark.

As for the offense, it has sounded all week like South Carolina was going to start freshman Brandon McIlwain at quarterback for no other reason than it has to try something to jump start an offense that has no answers at the moment. Both quarterbacks probably will play and whoever gets on a roll probably will stay in the game. The combination should get South Carolina enough points to move to 2-1 on the season.

South Carolina 17, East Carolina 14

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