It’s game week. Now what?
South Carolina’s football team should not punt in its season-opening game against Coastal Carolina on Saturday. At all. For any reason.
The wonderful world of electronic communication (my email address is right there above and my Twitter handle @JoshatTheState) gives you the opportunity to tell me why this is a bad idea. I’m going to tell you right now why it’s a good idea.
No. 1 – The Gamecocks are winning this game. Period. They are 29.5-point favorites. This is not The Citadel in 2015. This is a victory, and there is no reason not attempt something that might have a positive impact if there’s almost no chance it can have a negative impact.
No. 2 – Football analytics suggest coaches should be much more aggressive in attempting fourth downs overall. Here’s the math.
No. 3 – South Carolina punted six times in last year’s season-opener. It ran 50 plays. Assuming a similar ratio (which is not a great barometer for a variety of reasons we won’t get into here), that’s 12 percent more offensive plays the Gamecocks could run with their new offensive system this year if they don’t punt. That’s 12 more repetitions, and, don’t forget, football is a developmental game. (If you’re a South Carolina fan, you cannot forget that because head coach Will Muschamp says it 800 times a week.)
No. 4 – This is the most important one, by far. Such a radical move would affect the way No. 3 Georgia prepares its defense and calls its defensive plays when the Bulldogs travel to Williams-Brice Stadium on Sept. 8 for what will be South Carolina’s most important game of the season. The Gamecocks will be big underdogs next week. They need an advantage. Anything that makes them harder to prepare for gives them one, and if the Bulldogs are wondering on every third-and-6 whether South Carolina might go for it on fourth-and-4, it makes it harder to predict if the third down call is going to be a run or pass. It’s not a big advantage, but it is an advantage, and it comes at a very low cost.
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me why I’m dumb.