When we saw the South Carolina Gamecocks last week, they took the field against an Arkansas program that had handily defeated them for the past three seasons by a combined score of 118-64.
The Gamecocks exorcised any Razorback demons with a convincing 38-20 win at Williams-Brice Stadium and moved to 8-2 for the 2012 season.
Now, after eight SEC games in a row, they welcome the also 8-2 Wofford Terriers from the Southern Conference for the Gamecocks’ final home game of the season.
Can South Carolina avoid the letdown before their rivalry game next week against Clemson?
We'll find out as we preview Wofford vs. South Carolina, slated for a 1 p.m. EST kickoff on Saturday.
Who: Wofford vs. South Carolina
When: Saturday, November 17, 1 p.m. EST
Where: Columbia, SC
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: ESPN 3
Radio: 107.5 WNKT-FM, (SC)
After losses in five of its last six games against Arkansas, including the last three blowouts from 2009-2011, South Carolina handled the troubled Razorbacks 38-20 to earn their second consecutive season of six SEC wins.
Connor Shaw was an efficient 15-of-29 for 279 yards with two touchdowns through the air and one on the ground. With Marcus Lattimore out, Kenny Miles and Mike Davis combined for 90 yards and a touchdown to guide the Gamecocks on the ground.
On defense, South Carolina allowed the Razorbacks five trips inside the 20-yard line but gave up only two touchdowns.
Under duress for most of the game, Tyler Wilson was forced into throwing two interceptions and was sacked four times, including once by DE Jadeveon Clowney.
With the victory, South Carolina moved to 8-2 and remains in the hunt for a possible BCS at-large bid.
A victory over Wofford probably won’t give them any extra leverage to get there, but it will give them an opportunity to work out any kinks before traveling to Clemson next week and awaiting their bowl fate.
A thrilling overtime finish capped off by a two-yard Eric Breitenstein run gave Wofford a 16-13 win over Chattanooga.
The Terriers, behind Breitenstein, gained 215 yards on the ground and held the Mocs to only 103 yards in the rushing column.
An upset over the Gamecocks would certainly end the regular season on a high note for the 8-2 Terriers as they prepare for the FCS playoffs.
However, that's a lot easier said than done, especially having to play at Williams-Brice where South Carolina has not lost this season.
For Wofford, the outcome against South Carolina doesn’t affect their standing as one of the three-way holders of the Southern Conference Title or their berth in the FCS playoffs.
Then again, the extra momentum from a victory wouldn’t hurt them either.
For South Carolina, the weekend before their annual rivalry game against Clemson serves as, let’s face it, a final tune-up game.
But after a bruising SEC schedule, it’s a well-earned non-conference game where the Gamecocks can iron out their running attack with the balance of Miles and Davis.
Not to mention Steve Spurrier can get some underclassmen playing time while looking ahead to the depth chart for 2013.
Even if Jadeveon Clowney is not involved in a play, his presence alone has drawn numerous double-teams this season. That opens the door to big plays from the South Carolina defense including Shaq Wilson and Devin Taylor.
For 2012, Clowney has 42 tackles and 9.5 sacks. He has been widely regarded as one of the top defensive players in the country, and will likely be in contention for a share of awards at the end of the season.
On the whole, South Carolina is 12th in the NCAA defending the run, allowing only 102 yards a game on average, which is exactly the strength of the Wofford offense.
Clowney and South Carolina held Arkansas to only 83 yards last week and another performance will be critical to stopping Wofford.
The Terriers live and die behind the option offense and the running of Eric Breitenstein, who racked up 132 yards and the game-winning touchdown last week against Chattanooga.
On the season, Breitenstein has 1,528 yards. Last week, he became Wofford’s all-time leading rusher.
For the Terriers to have success against the Gamecocks, they will need another massive effort from their top rusher.
…they show up.
No, not literally, although many would probably mean it that way.
If the Gamecocks show up, meaning they come with the attitude to take care of business as they can on defense and in the passing game, they will win.
These games always feel dangerous because of the tendency to play half-speed or go through the motions.
Wofford is very one-sided as a rushing team while relying on the triple option, and if South Carolina plays up to potential to stop the run, they will get the victory.
…South Carolina cannot stop Eric Breitenstein.
The Terriers’ all-time leading rusher will certainly be in the crosshairs of the Gamecocks, but if he is able to break free into the open field consistently, the Terriers will have a chance.
Not only that: if the Terriers are successful on the ground, they will control the clock and keep the South Carolina offense off the field.
In their previous non-conference games this season, South Carolina defeated East Carolina 48-10 and UAB 49-6.
Every indication is that the Gamecocks will have similar success against the Terriers, although Wofford has a better record than East Carolina or UAB.
The fear of a letdown should be dissipated by the fact that the Gamecocks are still playing for a BCS at-large bowl game and cannot afford a loss against Wofford or Clemson.
To their credit, South Carolina has avoided the letdown game the last two seasons with victories against Troy in 2010 (69-24) and The Citadel (41-20).
The Gamecocks will control and contain the Terriers and Breitenstein on the ground and have their way on the offensive end, regardless of whether the starters play the entire game or not.
A conservative prediction: South Carolina 28, Wofford 10.