No one on South Carolina’s roster will commit to the idea that the Gamecocks’ offense will go faster against Michigan than it has all season, but statistically it seems almost inevitable.
South Carolina ranked 122nd in the nation in the adjusted pace of play kept by SBNation.com. In the process, it ranked 12th in the SEC in scoring and yards, and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was fired earlier this month.
Enter Bryan McClendon, the wide receivers coach, to take over the offensive game plan and play-calling for Monday’s Outback Bowl against Michigan. Head coach Will Muschamp has said publicly and privately that he wants an offense that moves as a faster pace, so it would be foolish for McClendon not to do just that during his extended job interview.
The question is exactly how much faster South Carolina (8-4) plans to go against the Wolverines (8-4).
The tempo “is picking up a little bit, not dramatically or anything like that. It’s nothing crazy,” wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “Not too much is different. We have been trying to not change up too many things, just kind of keep everything similar so people don’t get confused or anything.”
That doesn’t mean it will look exactly the same, Edwards said.
“Of course, with a new coach you are a going to add a new wrinkle,” he said. “We’ve got a little time to work on something so of course we’re going to sprinkle something in there.”
Of course, Edwards could be sandbagging, and the Gamecocks could be planning to go very fast against Michigan.
“You’ll have to come to the game,” is all Muschamp keeps saying about changes to his offense.
South Carolina averaged 24.1 points and 340.2 yards during the regular season, and it will be facing a Michigan defense that ranks third in nation in total defense (268.6 ypg allowed) and 12th in the nation in scoring defense (18.3 ppg allowed).
“We are just trying to execute whatever the play call is. It’s not a certain tempo; it’s just trying to execute,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “If you’re going too fast you may not get a good read on the defense, and it shortens the game if you don’t execute. It would keep our defense on the field a lot more if we are doing up tempo and don’t execute. It just depends on if you execute well or not, no matter the system.”
Michigan could be a particularly dangerous team to test tempo offense against. Although the Wolverines haven’t moved the ball consistently well, they do hold onto the ball. Michigan ranks 23rd in the nation in time of possession, keeping the ball almost 32 minutes per game.
Higher tempo “wouldn’t surprise me,” tight end Hayden Hurst. “It’s whatever BMac wants to do. He’s putting a lot of emphasis on us getting lined up and executing at a high level. We have (fast tempo) in our playbook, and if it’s something he thinks we need to do, that’s BMac’s call.”
Who: South Carolina (8-4) vs. Michigan (8-4)
When: Noon Monday
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Line: Michigan by 8