2009: the elements of the Gamecock football schedule
By Lee W.
Welcome to the 2009 preview of the University of South Carolina’s schedule. I will review the top six big games to mark on your calendar this season.
The Gamecocks leap into action on April 11th as the Gamecocks spring game, but the real gridiron grit comes along on Thursday, Sept. 3, against cross state rival North Carolina State.
The game versus the ACC-bred Wolfpack will be a 238-mile journey for South Carolina, presented on ESPN. Steve Spurrier’s team is returning 12 starters.
Like normal, Carolina will play one of the toughest schedules in the nation. South Carolina in fact, might play the nations toughest first two weeks of the season.
The Cocks face two consecutive away games against BCS foes, the Dogs, of Georgia and NC State.
Next; the Gamecocks get a warm-up against the Florida Atlantic Owls. The Owls of Boca Raton participated in the Motor City Bowl last year.
Next, the Ole Miss Rebels come to town, which will only get better this year. The Rebels could be in the Top 5 when ESPN’s Thursday crew comes to Columbia.
I expect South Carolina to come out fired up for the Ole Miss game. The final non-conference warm-up comes against the South Carolina State Bulldogs of Orangeburg, S.C.
The Bulldogs participated in the Division 1-AA Playoffs last year. Kentucky comes to town on Oct. 10, which we have not lost to since 1999, the turn of the century.
Kentucky will be ready to play a hard-core game versus our Carolina Gamecocks in Columbia.
The Gamecocks game against Kentucky is a game we must win because the next week we are playing the Alabama Crimson Tide at Tuscaloosa in front of 92,000 screaming fans.
The Crimson Tide received a Sugar Bowl bid last year and Nick Saban is looking for a quarterback this year.
The week after Alabama we must be very prepared because Vanderbilt has beaten us two years in a row. Vanderbilt has only beaten us 4-of-16 years we have been in the conference.
We need to correct our play against the Commodores because Vanderbilt has sent us into losing streaks the past 2 years. Vanderbilt is a very important game and Coach Spurrier must prepare the team very well for us to win against Bobby Johnson’s well-coached Commodores.
The next four games following Vanderbilt our very crucial to the team. The final 4 games is mostly the main cause for our death to bowl games, Conference titles, and national rankings.
The first comes against the Tennessee Vols in Knoxville. The Vols crowd will be rough but I do not expect very much from the Vols this season.
But Tennessee also could be conference contenders this season, and the Vols will be tough to beat.
Arkansas, on the other hand, I expect to be much better this season. The Cocks will travel to Fayetteville to face the Pigs of Arkansas.
Arkansas could be fighting for a middle class bowl, or could even be in the Top 20. Arkansas will be tough customers with Running back, Michael Smith.
The Hogs will have a year more of experience under their belts after last year’s 5-7 season. The Razorbacks finished the season on a strong note, winning the golden boot from LSU.
Next is the Florida Gators, who love Steve Spurrier; but run the score up on the Gamecocks. The combined score of the last two years is 107-37. The Gamecocks at least need to play close with the MIGHTY Gators of Florida
The last game of the season is against the hated Clemson Tigers. Spurrier has to realize Clemson is a game he must win for Carolina to compete in the conference, because beating Clemson gives us hope in the bowl game and the next season.
We hate Clemson. We must defeat and destroy Clemson!
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Seriously? Clemson is the nemesis we shall have to destroy every season. Clemson is a measuring stick to our football program.
We must also have to come into the game with hope and be prepared. We can do it and we will do it. Clemson is the thing that is holding us down.
If this is the year, we must beat Clemson in Columbia. This gives us what we need as long as we beat Clemson. I am really tired of losing to Clemson.
Georgia is a game we always play hard and normally find a way to lose. Georgia is a young, talented team this year with a new quarterback.
We will be playing “between the Hedges” at Georgia and the fans will come in the thousands. We will also bring lots of fans to the game.
No doubt this game will be close, but we have to make the most of it in crucial situations. Stephen Garcia, Reid McCollum or whoever is playing must produce and Georgia will challenge the offensive line.
The defense will have a lot to accomplish also. Expect this to be a defensive game. Look to see a low score at the end of the game.
To compete in the division, the Gamecocks will need to win this game. Like usual, Florida will be a monster with Tim Tebow and most of the great team returning.
Urban Meyer has led Florida to two national championships in three seasons. Just ask Rep. Corrine Brown. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5tXMLI-OsI)
If South Carolina can defeat Florida, it can compare to Ole Miss of last year that defeated Florida. This game will mean a lot in the conference standings. The Gators could break through early and really blow us out.
The Ole Miss game will be on Thursday night Primetime and the ESPN cameras will be on head coaches Steve Spurrier and Houston Nutt.
The Rebels could be a Top 5 team going into the game, but do not be overly surprised if the Gamecocks can pull out the victory vs. the Rebs.
Ole Miss will be a hard team to beat with quarterback Jevan Snead and 17 starters returning to Oxford.
The Crimson Tide are coming off a Sugar Bowl loss to the Utah Utes. The game will be played in Tuscaloosa, in front of 92,000 screaming Bama fans.
The Tide is looking for a quarterback who can produce after the departure of veteran John Parker Wilson. The candidates in running for quarterback are Junior Greg Elroy and freshman Star Jackson.
This year Nick Saban is focusing his coaching around the offense, which only returns four starters. The veteran defense returns nine starters. Receiver is also strength of Alabama.
Expect a quality SEC match up. The last time the Gamecocks faced the Crimson Tide was 2004, with Carolina winning 20-3.
Arkansas is another conference game. I expect to see the Razorbacks to be good this year, with star tailback Michael Smith and incoming quarterback Ryan Mallet.
I will not be surprised to see the Razorbacks make a good bowl and see them ranked in the Top 20.
Arkansas is rebuilding in a way under first-year coach Bobby Petrino, and could be the ole Miss of 2009. Expect a good game from the Razorbacks.
This is a game you could have Arkansas about average (maybe 6-3) and start to break out. Expect this as the start of what the Gamecocks could be (Our record in November is terrible) and maybe the start of a huge Gamecock or Razorback winning streak (The Hogs record in November is good).
Can the Gamecocks finally break out at the end of the season? This is a very important game to standings. Both of these teams are very similar. They both can fade in the stretch, and miss out on opportunities where they are very close by.
Big time bowl officials could be attending this game, like Cotton Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and Outback Bowl selectors. Also, South Carolina and Arkansas joined the SEC in the same year (1992)
The Tennessee game usually would be ranked higher than this. Don’t you think? Just in case you weren’t paying attention last season, The Vols went 5-7, and 3-5 in Conference play last year.
The Vols fired Phillip Fulmer, who won a handful of SEC championships, and a national title to add to his resume.
They hired Lane Kifflin, who failed at the Oakland Raiders, and has made about five infractions already. Kifflin said Gamecock recruit Alshon Jeffery would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life if he ended up at Carolina.
Neil White, a weekend sports writer for The State Newspaper in Columbia wrote that Kifflin would end up pumping gas for the rest of his life if he didn’t stick to coaching.
I hope Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and everybody else will maul Lane Kifflin’s Vols because he is busy ticking everybody off before the season has even started.
Look forward to the Vols vs. Gamecocks showdown because it could be a great showdown or Kifflin may be a really bad coach and we could win by a fair margin.
Why did I choose Vanderbilt as our 8th most important game? What is the reason? Why is the Vanderbilt game higher this year?
The last two years we have lost to the Commodores, putting us in deep holes.
Last year, we were ranked 24th in the nation when Vanderbilt beat us 24-17. When we were ranked sixth, Vandy steamrolled us 17-6.
When we weren’t prepared, Vanderbilt has got the best of us. We need the Vanderbilt game as a win. Usually, we would have eaten their souls; for example when we thrashed them 33-13 in 2006.
Spurrier better prepare us for this game, or we and only WE Carolina could have a three-game losing streak against Vanderbilt, which has only been to two bowl games in 28 years.
The Commodores are really close to real success; with head coach Bobby Johnson who prepares them well on the field and in the classroom.
Get the message: We better be ready when Vanderbilt rolls into town. Have you heard that recently?
Last year, Kentucky was a perfect example, as a reason the bowls should not have six-win teams play in bowls.
The Cats were 7-6, including a postseason victory over East Carolina. The Wildcats beat Norfolk State, Louisville, MTSU, Western Kentucky, and East Carolina (Liberty Bowl) out of conference last year.
Then they beat Mississippi State and Arkansas, which had no success last year. Also, The Gamecocks beat the Wildcats for the eighth time a the row last year.
This year, Rich Brooks and the Wildcats come to Columbia. The main outline for this game is: Can the Gamecocks win yet again vs. the “Bluegrass State” Wildcats and it is just another much needed conference win.
The N.C State game is ranked low on the list, but the stakes of this game are still very high. It is ranked lower because it is not a conference game.
Who would want to go into a game the next week against Georgia and lose the first week’s game also? How does that feel?
The N.C State Wolfpack and South Carolina Gamecocks will square off Thursday Night, which has become a Gamecock tradition since Spurrier got here.
Spurrier’s Gamecocks are 5-3 in Thursday games. Expect many traveling Gamecock fans in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack are returning QB Russell Wilson and returning starters WR Jarvis Williams, Spencer Owen, T.J Graham and TE George Bryan.
On defense, Shea McKeen, Alan Michael Cash, Willy Young, Ray Michael, Nate Irvin, DeAndre Morgan, and Justin Byers return.
Florida Atlantic is another non-conference game for us. The Owls return from last year’s Motor City Bowl, although they expected a Sun Belt Champion.
The Gamecocks need to clean up the Owls before we face Ole Miss. If we win by a large margin, expect the backups to be played.
The Bulldogs received a FCS playoff bid last year for the first time in a number of years. The last time the Gamecocks and Bulldogs squared off, the Gamecocks prevailed 31-3 after throwing three interceptions.
Look for the Bulldog Marching Band at halftime in Williams Brice. The Gamecocks need an easy non-conference win here.