Let's get this out of the way first: Running back Mike Davis' early absence and nagging rib injury wouldn't have helped South Carolina beat Texas A&M on opening night. After all, he's neither a defensive lineman nor a defensive back, which were South Carolina's two biggest problems last Thursday night.
Davis had only six carries for 15 yards against the Aggies, and his status this week has been up in the air a little bit.
After first saying that he's "sort of doubtful" for Saturday's matchup against East Carolina with a nagging rib injury, head coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday that his star running back should be ready to go against the Pirates, according to Josh Kendall of The State:
Steve Spurrier says he now believes Mike Davis will be available against East Carolina.— Josh Kendall (@JoshatTheState) September 2, 2014
That's good news, because not only does South Carolina need Davis this season, it needs him in this particular game.
East Carolina is no pushover.
Senior quarterback Shane Carden threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns vs. N.C. Central, and threw for a total of 7,255 yards in his first two seasons as the starter in 2012-13. I know, I know; N.C. Central isn't exactly tough and East Carolina's schedule isn't tough.
Spurrier knows how good this Pirate team is. At South Carolina's media day prior to fall camp, he praised them while throwing a little jab at the Big Ten (via: 247Sports).
"Playing East Carolina is maybe a little bit better than playing one of those bottom-tier Big Ten teams," he said.
FoxSports.com's Bruce Feldman put Spurrier's quote into perspective earlier this summer:
Re: Spurrier's comments abt #ECU beating some BigTen teams. I think ECU & Shane Carden could probably beat half the teams in Big 5 leagues.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) August 3, 2014
Was there anything to suggest that South Carolina's front four and back four could shut down even an average FBS offense? If there was, I didn't see it.
Davis needs to be the guy who takes the pressure off the Gamecocks defense.
By pounding the rock and controlling the tempo, it will keep the South Carolina defense fresh and, perhaps more importantly, keep Carden and Co. off the field.
For the future, Davis' success this week is huge. Davis needs to hit the ground running this week, because waiting in the wings is a showdown with No. 8 Georgia, whose front seven looked pretty solid against Clemson when it allowed just one second-half first down and a mere 15 yards in the final 30 minutes.
Will ECU and Shane Carden challenge South Carolina?
Does South Carolina really want to face off against the Bulldogs with a star running back who's still knocking the rust off? Not a chance.
Davis' presence this week would help get him back in the flow and, ideally, contribute to his defense staying fresh and building some much-needed confidence.
All is not lost in Columbia, but the Gamecocks need their Heisman Trophy contender at running back to hit the ground running this week, because the margin for error in the SEC East is now razor-thin with a big game lurking in Week 3.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and video analyst for Bleacher Report, and co-host of the CFB Hangover on Bleacher Report Radio (Sundays 9-11 a.m. ET) on Sirius 93, XM 208. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.