Gamecocks Football: The Swing Games That Will Determine Success in 2012
August is finally upon us. The 30th will be here before you know it.
Every football season, you can basically put your favorite team's games into three categories. They are: 1) games you should win; 2) games you should lose; and 3) games that could go either way, or swing games.
My rule for determining swing games are those games your team is a one-score favorite or underdog in. Simply put, a game you could win on a good day and lose on a bad one.
Last year, the Gamecocks won five of the six games they should have won (Auburn -10). They did not have any games that they were likely to lose, and they had six swing games.
Of those six swing games, they lost the one game they were underdogs in (Arkansas +5) and they won the other five they were favored in. As a result, South Carolina had their most ever wins in a season and finished 11-2.
By my count this year, South Carolina has five games it should win, two games it will likely be the underdog by more than one score and five swing games. Follow me through the next five sides and see if we agree on who they are.
On the evening of Aug. 30 as game time draws near, the ESPN trucks will be lined up behind the stadium. All the cameras and their operators will be looking out of their perches and the fans will be arriving.
The sideline hon—, ah, football expert that has taken over for Erin Andrews, who has moved over to FOX Sports, will opine expertly about some football fact with our favorite announcers. And soon, it will be lights, camera, action!
Instead of a deafening roar from an overstuffed Williams-Brice crowd of about 84,000, the noise will come from 39,773 fans at Vanderbilt Stadium.
We know that Carolina will get as many of their Gamecocks fans as they possibly can in that 39,773. But, unlike previous seasons, this year there will likely be few extra tickets to be had for game one.
Vanderbilt's head coach, James Franklin, has been working hard to change the attitudes and expectations at the perennial SEC East cellar dweller. Their six-win season and bowl appearance last year has helped to ignite the football fire of this SEC city.
Get ready, as time draws near the news media seems to be leaning towards making Vandy an early season darling. For instance, in an article by Bleacher Report's own Alex Callos, "31 Bold Predictions For 31 Days of August," he lists a Vanderbilt upset of South Carolina as No.10 on his list.
Make no mistake, Vandy will be jacked up. First game of the year, national exposure, media darlings and on and on. I said in an article about a week ago that you can't expect to be a SEC champion unless you can beat Vandy. Nothing has changed about that.
The Gamecocks don't want to allow these guys to stay close if they can help it. One of those famous Spurrier blowout wins we hear his detractors talk about would be a good thing if you are a Gamecocks fan.
This Missouri team is pretty good. It has an All-SEC-caliber quarterback returning and he can run or throw. If they beat Georgia at home on Sept. 8, they could even be favored coming to South Carolina on Sept. 22.
Missouri's offensive line is a team strength. It starts three seniors, a junior and a sophomore across the front five. They average 6'5" and 299 pounds. They replaced two three-year starters and a two-year starter this year. Between the three, they had 38 starts last year. Still, by game four, the line should be in good form.
Missouri averaged 244 yards rushing per game last year. My money says this line is a little too light and inexperienced to move SEC defensive lines around enough to get gaudy rush numbers like that this year.
In 2011, the Tigers lost at No. 1 Oklahoma by 10, at No. 20 Kansas St. by seven, to No. 6 Oklahoma State by 21, won at No. 16 Texas A&M by seven and beat No. 21 Texas by 12 at home. Overall, a decent schedule, mixed with the good teams were a few weaker ones.
This is not a team to take lightly. These guys can play. But, they have to come to Carolina, and I feel that will be enough to make the difference here.
There have been lots of comments by Georgia fans about the Bulldogs giving the game away in 2011. Carolina made mistakes too. But the Gamecocks also made plays. Like South Carolina second-team All-American defensive end Melvin Ingram's 68-yard fake punt run for a touchdown. Then, his scoop and score of the Jadeveon Clowney forced fumble on a sack of Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray.
This game should be a close, hard-fought SEC classic all the way. Right now, I give a slight edge to South Carolina for being at home. Still, it is going to be an emotional game that can go either way.
Florida's defense held the Gamecocks to 299 total yards offense last year; 215 yards of that were on the ground as South Carolina averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Spurrier only had 13 total pass plays called, seven were completed for 84 total yards.
Florida had a very strong defense last year, but its offense wasn't anywhere nearly as productive as its fans are accustomed to. So far, the quarterback position isn't settled for 2012. Until the Gators get the offense working properly, they are very beatable.
The biggest thing the Gators have working in their favor this year against South Carolina is the home field. Gamecocks fans need to hope that Florida's offense doesn't get it together too soon. If it does, this will be a hard team to beat at home.
South Carolina has won three in a row in the series. Better yet, all three have been by 17 points or more.
All that is good stuff. Still, I think Clemson should be considered a swing game for three reasons:
1) Clemson is playing at home
2) Both will likely be Top 20 teams at the end of the year. So, they will both be good.
3) It's a big rivalry game and emotion can make a huge difference in those games.
There is my list of South Carolina swing games for the 2012 season. Whether this season will go down as a great winner or a great disappointment will likely be determined by the results of these five games.