The Last Word
By Randall Stewart
I’ll be honest. Normally I have a pretty good idea of what I want to say in this space. Today, I don’t. I’m too disappointed. The optimism we all felt two weeks ago has vanished, replaced by feelings of emptiness and resurrected talk of the Chicken Curse, which just won’t seem to die no matter how many baseball national championships we accumulate or big football wins we rack up. Brad Edwards, ESPN’s BCS guru, still believes we can make it to the Sugar Bowl. But I don’t think any of us still hold on to that dream. Here in the world of reality, we know that chance has come and gone.
The question now has become whether South Carolina can pick up the pieces and move on. Florida has already beaten us once; the worst thing we can do is to let them beat us twice. South Carolina needs to establish the tone early. And Tennessee’s defense should provide the Gamecocks the opportunity to do just that. The Vols rank 95th in total defense, 89th in rushing defense, 92nd in passing defense, and 80th in turnover margin. It seems like the perfect recipe for the Gamecocks to cure all their ills offensively.
The Vols love to throw the ball around a lot, but Carolina’s 15th-ranked pass defense probably isn’t too worried. All in all, South Carolina is better on paper. The Gamecocks are bigger, stronger, more athletic, and have more playmakers on both sides of the ball.
But things don’t always shake out the way they look on paper. The Gamecocks certainly won’t get caught looking ahead to bigger games on the schedule, but they can’t afford to mope around and dwell on the last two weeks. The first quarter will tell the story of this game, and it all comes back to the offense. If the Gamecocks come out looking flat offensively and struggle to record a first down, look for Tennessee to dominate the time of possession battle and slowly wear Carolina’s defense down. If Carolina is able to put a drive or two together and doesn’t look totally lost when it has the ball, things will return to normal.
I don’t have the best feeling in the world about this one, but the optimist in me says there’s no way the Gamecocks will lose again this Saturday. They’re too talented to drop a third consecutive contest, especially against a less-talented opponent like Tennessee.
Final score: Gamecocks 35-13
Photo Credit: Herald-Journal