I really struggled with this week's 5 things. Mainly because I kept remembering the old adage an experienced trial lawyer quoted to me soon after I began practicing law: "You've never as good as your wins or as bad as your losses." That saying applies in football as well. Eventually, Matt Stafford will throw an interception. Our secondary will one day get burned. The question is will it be this week, and how will we respond? And on the flip side, how much did South Carolina learn from playing a half on the brink against Louisiana-Lafayette? So, take these predictions with the understanding that this one really could go either way. But if you're going to have Stephen Garcia hold a car key to my head, I'd say you'll see:
1)Blake Mitchell, for better or worse- He's starting, no matter how cheeky Spurrier wants to be about it. The Dancin' Chicken is Spurrier's best bet. He may make maddening gaffs in the red zone and he may get his skinny, cheapshot taking neck wrung, but he's the best Spurrier's got right now. The big question will be how rusty he looks in his first live fire action of the season and how he responds if we are able to apply pressure early and often to disrupt Spurrier's timing-dependent passing game.
Last week I pointed out that when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. This week I'd like to point out that when the only quarterback you have is a Jar Jar Binks impersonator, I think you're just pretty much screwed.
2)Cory Boyd- As I noted yesterday, I think Mike Gundy's Oklahoma State team made a mistake by not lining up and running right at our young defense. Spurrier won't make the same mistake. Cory Boyd is the type of tailback who, in addition to dropping illicit narcotic references on national television, can turn a 2 yard hole into a 4 yard gain. South Carolina is dealing with the same growing pains on the OL that we are. They will also respond by running the football with Boyd and Mike Davis. This sets up a Pat Dye style battle to see who is "man enough" to stop the other's rushing attack. There will be some misdirection aimed at getting our young guys to overpursue. There may even be some plays with Boyd or Davis taking direct snaps.
3)Running yards . . .- Louisiana-Lafayette gave Spurrier's defense fits with a spread option-ish attack in their first game of the year. I implied before the season that the Gamecocks would have trouble reaching the next level in the SEC if they can't play better run defense. The screens and quick passes that Mike Bobo called against Oklahoma State both helped our young offensive line do some things right and gain some confidence. Those plays were also straight from the Steve Spurrier school of frustrating offensive game plans, circa Jacksonville 1995. South Carolina will play press coverage to stop the screen game, and when they do . . .
4)Play action passing will pay dividends. South Carolina's secondary is young, hungry and not captained by Ko Simpson or Dunta Robinson. Anyone who remembers recent UGA/South Carolina tilts can tell you that bodes well for Matt Stafford. Sean Bailey is a deep threat that simply cannot be ignored, and he (or Kenneth Harris, Demiko Goodman or Kris Durham) will score on one "hidden ball" play action pass.
5)UGA 29, USC 20. But the game will not be as close as the score indicates. South Carolina will score late to make it another moral victory for the team that is perpetually on the verge of relevance in the SEC East race, and coached by a man who was a legend in another time and place.