SEC Football 2011: South Carolina Upset Alert; Why ECU May Shock Gamecocks
The first week of the 2011 college football season is quickly approaching, and here is my first bold upset pick of the year.
There's a lot of hype about the Gamecocks this year, but they should not get to cocky and look past a sleeper foe who just might have the right ingredients to stir up an early-season upset.
Here are the reasons why East Carolina could upset the 12th-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina Offense vs. East Carolina Defense
ECU was worst in the country last year in scoring defense, but expect that to change.
Last season was a complete rebuild for a defense that only returned two starters from the 2009 Conference USA championship team.
This season, defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell has installed a new 3-4 scheme in Greenville to take advantage of the size and speed of the players they have. This new defense should take away some of Marcus Lattimore’s lateral movement and keep him contained.
The big question is this: Once they contain Lattimore, can they tackle him?
With the Pirates keying in on stopping Lattimore and the Gamecocks running game, ECU will force Stephen Garcia to beat them throwing the ball down the field.
Now, the question becomes, "Will Stephen Garcia will show up with his A-game September 3rd?"
If not, it could be a very long game for the Gamecocks offense.
Alshon Jeffrey can only be effective if he gets the ball in his hands, and Garcia’s history of inconsistent play could be a big factor in this contest.
There is also a lack of proven depth at wide receiver for South Carolina. Alshon Jeffrey obviously excelled last season, but the second leading receiver, Tori Gurley, had only half as many catches and less than a third of the yards as Jeffrey.
The third leading receiver was Marcus Lattimore out of the backfield.
Look for a lot of double-teams on Jeffrey, so someone will need to step up for the Gamecocks in the receiving corps.
East Carolina Offense vs. South Carolina Defense
Despite all the hype surrounding Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey, the issues with South Carolina’s defense often go overlooked.
Their secondary unit is really the weak spot on defense, giving up 23 passing touchdowns versus only 10 interceptions in 2010.
South Carolina’s defensive line must get some pressure on Dominique Davis and not let him sit in the pocket, or else he will shred the Gamecocks secondary. Davis had a stellar 2010, passing for nearly 4,000 yards with a 64.5-percent completion percentage and 37 touchdowns versus only 17 interceptions.
Davis also has a huge weapon in Lance Lewis. As the second receiver for East Carolina last season, Lewis had over 1,000 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
Look for Lewis to have an even bigger season this year and give South Carolina fits in the season opener.
ECU Has Proven They Have the Ability to Upset Superior Teams
ECU is no stranger to beating big-time teams the past several years.
Since 2007, ECU has knocked off pretty big teams and collected two Conference USA Championships along the way.
August 30, 2008, also a season opener, ECU beat No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 at a neutral site, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte (the same venue as the South Carolina game this year).
The very next week, ECU went on to defeat No. 8 West Virginia 24-3 at home.
East Carolina also bested No. 22 Boise State in the 2007 Hawai’i Bowl.
ECU won’t lie down to a big-game challenge.
South Carolina Is in Uncharted Territory as a Contender
After what may have been their best season in the modern SEC era, South Carolina is dealing with heightened expectations and more pressure to win.
I doubt a Spurrier-coached team would fall into the trap of looking beyond an opponent, but crazier things have happened in college football. South Carolina travels to Athens to take on Georgia in Week 2, and a very good Navy team comes to Columbia in Week 3.
South Carolina has to be very careful not to look ahead and take East Carolina for granted.
South Carolina Should Survive Against ECU
In the end I do believe South Carolina will probably beat ECU.
However, I think this game is going to be a lot closer than the experts think and the Gamecocks will have their hands full going up to Charlotte.
The ingredients are there for a potential stunner, so don't be too surprised if East Carolina pulls off the early-season upset.