South Carolina had a rough go of it the last couple of weeks. They played Alabama well, but the offense did not generate enough points to keep it close, and the offensive unit and special teams struggled against "mighty" Vanderbilt.
Now, South Carolina must travel to Knoxville to face a much improved Tennessee Volunteers team.
All of these indicators could be a recipe for disaster for the Gamecocks, who are trying to avoid yet another late game skid. A victory here goes a long way in establishing that this is INDEED a new Carolina.
5 Keys to Victory
1. Stop the running game of the Vol's, and make Jonathan "Fire N' Ice" Crompton throw to win.
The more passes Crompton throws, the better chance South Carolina has to win. South Carolina needs to back off of the cover two that has been so prevalent the past few weeks and play with a greater focus on the running game.
The South Carolina defensive backs have been playing at a fairly high level. Stephon Gilmore is a glorified star in the making, Akeem Aguste, C.C. Whitlock, and safety Chris Culliver all play at a high level.
Of course for this to really matter, Carolina's defenders must...
2. Pull down some interceptions.
I have never in my life seen a team drop so many interceptions. Eric Norwood had one hit him in his hands last week that should have been taken back for six. At that point, the score would have been 14-3, and South Carolina would have never had to struggle.
If the interceptions do not occur this week, I would expect Tennessee to run away with this game.
3. Open up the passing game even more.
I know... we want to establish the run. However, I do not view this as a necessity any more. The running backs are not the problem... South Carolina has a talented backfield. It is just that the team has not found a group of linemen that can truly put defenses on their backs.
Steven Garcia has quietly bumped himself to number 25 on this year's passer ratings ranking. That’s an impressive feat for a South Carolina quarterback. Alshon has emerged as a star. Tori Gurley has skills, and Moe Brown is mad as hell.
Wing it... this will even help our run game... if they are so afraid of the pass, then it will open up running lanes. So... let’s establish the PASS to open up the RUN.
4. Stay in your lanes during kick coverage!
I will say that the biggest weakness that this team has is kickoff coverage. I do not want to say special teams, because Spencer Lanning has become a tremendous aspect to the team, as has Culliver’s kick returns.
Can we please keep our opponents from huge returns? South Carolina would be sitting at 7-1 right now if it was not for that squad. If I am Steve Spurrier, I have Coach Shane Beamer on high alert... Beamer Ball Jr. is not working... get it together, or hit the road. (Yes... I have to blame coaching here... too many really talented players including starters on that field for it to not be a coaching issue).
5. Play loose, play live, and if the chance comes, go for the jugular.
South Carolina has to walk into games thinking, we are going to destroy this team. This may be partly because Steve Spurrier does not have this attitude. The team has to come in, play angry, and play smart.
If South Carolina takes all of its opportunities and plays to the best of its abilities (NOT to the level of the opposition) South Carolina wins this one easily. As it stands, I look for an extremely close contest between two SEC squads that are trying to still find their way.
Prediction: SC 17- Tenn. 14