With another matchup against the Ol’ Ball Coach on the horizon, we were pleased to do another Q&A with the folks at the excellent South Carolina blog, Garnet & Black Attack (here’s our interview with them from last year). Read on for their thoughts on the Cocks’ annual QB controversy, Spurrier’s job performance and much more (also, while you’re at it be sure to click over to their site to read our A’s to their Q’s):
1. The Gamecocks come into Saturday’s game with a 6-3 overall record and a 3-3 mark in conference play. Are Gamecock fans pleased with the team’s performance this season?
We’re tentatively pleased. Going into the season, I said that I hoped we would finish 8-4 and make a decent bowl game. Those goals are still in sight if we can beat Arkansas and Clemson. I would be ecstatic if we could win nine by winning out, but I (obviously) don’t like our chances against Florida. Eight will be satisfying, though, considering that eight will probably net us an Outback Bowl bid on New Years Day.
If we fail to make those goals by losing to your guys, Clemson, or both, a lot of people, including yours truly, will be disappointed. And there’s some disappointment anyways because we lost to Vanderbilt, which in hindsight seems inexplicable now.
We also failed to capitalize on golden opportunities to upset LSU or Georgia, which will leave some people feeling that despite our eight wins if we get there, we failed to break into the league’s upper echelon. However, I think most people will be happy with eight and a New Years Day bowl after last year’s late-season skid and this year’s slow start.
2. Chris Smelley or Stephen Garcia—which quarterback do you prefer to see starting for the Gamecocks these days?
Like most Gamecocks fans, I prefer Garcia. He’s got a better arm, is a little more accurate, and he’s mobile, which comes in handy for us because he’s able to create plays when our weak offensive line collapses. I also think he’s a better leader and performer under pressure, although that still remains to be seen to a certain degree...
However, unlike other Gamecocks fans, I don’t think Smelley is chopped liver. Chris has helped us win big games in the past, and if needs to come in Saturday, I have faith that he will perform well. His numbers are actually quite good, although he tends to throw a really awful interception or two each game. Chris was a world beater against Ole Miss. I just think Garcia is a little bit better, especially due to his scrambling abilities.
3. South Carolina’s defense has been stout this season, holding the team’s opponents to an average of 250.7 yards of total offense per game, the lowest average in the SEC. How do you think the Arkansas offense matches up with the Gamecocks’ defense?
I want to say is that we should play well. We have a strong secondary that should be able to defend the down-field pass well and our front guys should be able to do well against a young Arkansas offensive line, keeping Michael Smith from taking off and putting pressure on Casey Dick.
I think pressuring Dick is key; from what I’ve seen of Arkansas, Dick can hit passes when he has time, but tends to make mistakes when he’s got a big guy in his face. Forcing a couple of interceptions could help us take control of this game early.
However, I have a lot of respect for Bobby Petrino’s play-calling ability, and I have no doubt that he’ll have a great gameplan ready for the Gamecocks. I know that Petrino likes to run the ball out of power formations with multiple tightends sometimes only to spring an attempt for a big play when the defense is expecting run.
If the Hogs are able to establish the run with Smith, I worry that Petrino will lure us into being susceptible to a down-field strike or two. Hopefully, we’ll stop the run and will play smart if Petrino tries to catch us off guard.
4. Let’s look at the game’s other match-up: What’s your assessment of how the Gamecocks’ offense will fare against the Hogs’ defense?
Offensively we are not a great team. We move the ball well at times, but we are susceptible to a good pass rush, don’t have much of a running game, and have had problems with turnovers (although less so with Garcia than Smelley). We’ve had a good quarter here and there, but I really think that the only complete game we’ve played offensively this year was against Ole Miss.
That said, I think we can move the ball against Arkansas. Your defense hasn’t been as good this year as some of the others we’ve played, so I’m hoping to see improvement against a young group. I think we should be able to run a little better against you guys than we have in past weeks, and if we can establish the run, lots of things should open up for us.
The key for us on offense, I think, will be turnovers. Tulsa moved the ball well against the Hogs but lost because you came up with big defensive plays when you needed them. We can’t give up those sorts of turnovers or it might cost us the game.
5. Four seasons into the Steve Spurrier era, what’s your assessment of the job he’s done in Columbia?
I would tentatively say he’s done a good job. Last year was disappointing because the fast start gave us high hopes, but overall he’s been more successful than any other coach at Carolina over his first three and a half years. He’s also recruited fairly well and has another big class on the way this year.
However, I think that he needs to take us to the next level soon. We’re tired of winning six or seven games a year and playing in the Liberty Bowl. We have a chance to do well this year—eight wins and a New Years Day bowl will be a great step forward. We have to make it happen, though.
6. Finally, prediction for Saturday’s game and the rest of the Gamecocks’ season?
I think this game will be close for most of the day but that we’ll pull away a little in the late third or fourth quarter. I’m going to say that the final score will be 27-17 in favor of the Gamecocks.
As for the rest of the season, I think we’ll lose to Florida, beat Clemson, and play in either the Outback or the Chick-fil-A Bowls.