Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer recently wrote an article predicting a South Carolina upset over second-ranked Alabama.
Poppycock, I say (and pardon the terrible pun).
What is so shameful about Sorensen’s “prediction” is that it is based on zero knowledge of either team, the SEC, or even college football itself.
Even if the guy turns out to be “correct,” this was clearly a case of a journalist doing whatever he can to stir up discussion and garner readers and attention.
Here is what Sorensen had to write:
“Despite Alabama's overwhelming fans and even more overwhelming talent, I foresee the biggest upset in college football in 2009."
The disparity in experience is frightening. Yet South Carolina will upset Alabama for two reasons.
The first is that Alabama, a 17-point favorite, is supposed to win. When the Gamecocks take a late lead, how will the favorites respond? The players will turn to coach Nick Saban and Saban will tell them, 'I'm a great recruiter.'
But innovation will be required, and it will be too late.
The second reason is Spurrier, the great innovator. Spurrier won a national championship at Florida and, more impressively, an ACC championship at Duke.
He was once was the best football coach in the country, and magic still lurks beneath his visor. It has been simmering. And as the late and oh-so-great John Lee Hooker sang, 'It's in him and it got to come out.'
It comes out Saturday in suddenly sullen Tuscaloosa.”
Fellow droogs, I may be the biggest Spurrier supporter you have ever met. My loyalty to the Head Ball Coach can border on irrational.
But I’m also a pretty objective college football fan—and I’ve seen both of these teams play.
Could the Tide possibly get caught looking ahead to their matchup with Tennessee next week? Possibly, but it won’t matter for long.
Expect the Tide to continue to do what they have all season: pound the running game down the defense’s throat. Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson will continue to have success, especially since the Gamecock defense has been so injury-plagued.
When middle linebacker Rodney Paulk was lost for the year with a torn ACL, his replacements were either drastically undersized—Shaq Wilson, who weighs in at 210 pounds—or drastically inexperienced and undersized—Tony Straughter, a junior college transfer who is only 215 pounds and has played in only two SEC games.
The Gamecocks are also without defensive tackle Travian Robertson, also out with an ACL, and cornerback Akeem Auguste, who is finishing his three-game suspension.
The Gamecocks’ front line is fast enough and nasty enough to get pressure on McElory, but they likely won’t get many opportunities to do so.
Instead, the Tide will hammer their backs up the middle all game long and bide their time, waiting for a seam that will allow a long run, or the defense to eventually wear down—or both.
As for South Carolina’s offense, other than height advantage with wide receivers Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley, the Bama defense has the upper hand in every single area—like they do in nearly every game.
Expect a lot of Gamecock three and outs, as the Tide will look to take advantage of an improved but still shaky South Carolina offensive line.
Finally, as loyal as I am to Spurrier, I am the polar opposite toward Nick Saban. And why wouldn’t I be? He is not my head coach, and the man has a history of shady behavior—which Tide fans conveniently forget, I might add.
But for Sorensen to boil down Saban’s coaching to simply being a good recruiter is beyond foolish—and completely unfounded. Saban is a heckuva coach with big game experience, and he is also surrounded by excellent position coaches.
I don’t expect a blowout this Saturday, but I can’t imagine a scenario where the Gamecocks will be in the game late in the fourth quarter.
All that said, I do agree with Sorensen about one thing—Steve Spurrier, despite criticism otherwise, still has the “magic under the visor.”
Unfortunately, Spurrier won’t be pulling any tricks this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
Game Prediction: Alabama 31, South Carolina 17