Wins & Recruiting

Last year I took a look at how South Carolina recruiting has stacked up against the rest of the SEC East and Clemson. I wanted to take it a step further by expanding the list of teams to include the entire SEC and ACC and look at how recruiting is affected by wins in previous years. This grouping basically includes all the major programs in the Southeast, and typically accounts for ~50% of the Top 25 in the recruiting rankings in a given year. The general belief in college football is that the rich get richer, and that recruiting acts as a positive feedback loop, i.e. more wins lead to better recruits which lead to even more wins. In reality recruiting is affected by a variety of factors. Some teams have more tradition, some schools are in regions with better demographics and access to top talent, and some teams are known to flat out cheat more than others. A splashy new coaching hire can also bring immediate benefits on the recruiting trail. All these other factors are hard to quantify, but win totals are readily available, so let's see what we can discern with those.

The rankings I used this time are the team composite rankings from 247 Sports, which are generally considered to be the most accurate as they pool data from multiple scouting services. I went back as far as I could (the year 2000), at which point the rankings are a bit wonky and max out at 44. For the analysis below I only used recruiting rankings from 2002 onward as those appear to be reliable from that point. Here's some other notes about the data:

  • Teams included are all SEC and ACC teams as those conferences are currently constituted. So all years for Texas A&M, Missouri, Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College, Pittsburg, Syracuse, and Louisville are all included despite those teams being in other conferences for a portion of the years being reviewed. That also means no Maryland.
  • Years 2003 and 2004 only had 11 regular season games, as they were sandwiched between the 2-year trial of 12 games in 2001 and 2002 and college football officially moving to a 12-game regular season from 2006.
  • I looked up the RGB and Hex values for the set of official team colors for every team, and used those to customize the markers for the data points in the charts below. As you can imagine, this took quite a bit of effort and a not insignificant amount of time to accomplish. To save space and make each chart more legible I've included a single legend for each data point in Figure 1 below. Please refer to this when looking at the following charts.

Figure 1. Legend showing all teams included in the following charts and their associated marker using official team colors.

Preceding Year Wins and Recruiting

I believe the prevailing thinking amongst college football fans and pundits is that a winning (or losing) season leads to an immediate impact on the recruiting trail, so in Figure 2 below I've plotted the 247 Composite Team Rankings against each team's win total for the year immediately prior. Figure 3 shows the same data, but is more narrowly focused by showing only teams with Top 25 recruiting rankings.

Figure 2. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's win total for the preceding year.

  • There's currently 65 'Power Five' teams in existence, so the worst you'd ever really expect a team from the SEC or ACC to finish is around 65th in the recruiting rankings. There are some notable exceptions (looking at you, Kentucky and Wake Forest), but you can certainly see a ceiling around 65 in the data.
  • As you'd expect, no team that has a 13+ wins in this group finished outside of the Top 20 in recruiting. On the other side, no team that had 2 wins or less finished inside the Top 20.
  • Apart from that, there's not really a clearly evident trend here. You can win between 3 and 11 games and end up anywhere in the Top 80 in recruiting.
  • The average number of wins in this data set is 7.36, with the mode being 7. The average recruiting ranking is 31.50, with a mode of 11.
  • Two easily identifiable outliers in the data are Louisville and Missouri. Both finished two seasons with 12 wins but ended up outside the Top 25 in recruiting. Both schools are located in areas not known for producing football talent, and Louisville's 12-win seasons came while they were a member of the Big East conference.

Figure 3. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings (Top 25 only) for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's win total for the preceding year.

  • There's not a lot more that can be determined from looking at Figure 3 other than just getting a closer look at who's in the Top 25. A team can win as few as 2 games and end up in the Top 25, although that is much more likely to happen with 8+ wins.
  • Alabama dominates the bottom-right of this chart. The bottom-left has a group of suspicious characters that will be discussed in further detail later.
  • Over the 17 year period referenced, only Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Florida State have finished in the Top 25 in recruiting every year. Auburn has done this 16 times while Tennessee, Alabama, and Miami have done it 15 times. South Carolina has 13 Top 25 finishes over this period, and Clemson has 12.
  • Not a surprise, but worth pointing out, is the fact that the SEC dominates the ACC in terms of Top 25 recruiting rankings. Of the 222 data points in Figure 3, 154, or 69.4%, belong to SEC teams.

Two Years Prior Wins and Recruiting

I've heard on multiple occasions that given the time required to build relationships with players and their family members, a big winning season has more impact on the recruiting class two years later than it does on the class immediately following the season (i.e. win totals for the 2000 season impact the 2002 recruiting class more than they do the 2001 class). In Figures 4 and 5 I've plotted recruiting rankings against wins from the season two years prior to see if this postulation is supported by the data.

Figure 4. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's win total for the season two years prior.

  • At first glance Figure 4 looks very similar to Figure 2, but upon closer inspection the data does appear to be more closely grouped towards a central trend. In particular the 7 to 9 win range exhibits a denser grouping of data points.

Figure 5. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings (Top 25 only) for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's win total for the season two years prior.

  • As we saw with regards to Figure 4, there's not much to differentiate Figure 5 with Figure 3 above. Alabama has slightly less of a stranglehold on the bottom-right, while Ole Miss (2013) and Auburn (2014) look very suspicious by themselves in the far bottom-left. Both of those recruiting classes occurred one full season after a coaching change.

Overall I'd say there's maybe a little bit of truth to the thinking about wins having more impact two years down the road, but there's not anything definitive in this analysis, at least in this view of the data. Given the recent addition of an early signing period in December, I expect wins from two years prior to be much more relevant to recruiting going forward, as most teams now have a vast majority of their recruiting class locked in before bowl season.

Preceding 4-Year Win Average and Recruiting

In my personal experience, I didn't really become aware of the wider world of college football until around 9th grade. I certainly followed the Gamecocks in depth (as much as was possible pre-Internet at least) and generally knew what teams were historically good, but I really didn't know much about what went on beyond the borders of SC. I assume that I was a fairly typical young guy and that not much has changed in the past 20 or so years. I'm sure that as these potential recruits start playing more competitive football and getting contacted by coaches their awareness of the college football landscape increases dramatically, and when it's finally time for the some of them to choose a program their impressions of teams are based mainly on what has happened since they entered high school. Four years ago I would often see a recruit say something like 'South Carolina always beats Clemson' in an interview. Clemson's current run of success would likely result in a high school senior not realizing that Clemson is a historically mediocre program. In Figures 6 and 7 below I've plotted the recruiting ranking against the average win total for the previous 4-year span.

Figure 6. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's average win total for the preceding four years.

  • Now we're seeing a much clearer trend in the data in Figure 6. The data grouping is much tighter and follows the trendline you'd expect to see: top-left downwards toward the bottom-right (i.e. better recruiting with more wins).
  • If a team averages more than 10 wins over a four year period, their next recruiting class is almost guaranteed to be in the Top 20. A major exception to this is Virginia Tech, which finished inside the Top 20 only once out of six years with a 4-year average of 10+ wins. This illustrates that that program has some sort of major disadvantage with regards to recruiting compared to other high-achieving teams.
  • Something jumped out at me that I didn't expect when looking at this chart, and it has to do with team colors. If your team has a single primary color and that color is any kind of shade of blue, it will almost never average more than 8 wins over a 4-year period. Duke average 8.3 wins from 2012-2015, and UNC averaged 8 wins for the last two years of the period 2012-2016. That's it. Also, of the 'blue' teams only UNC has ever had a Top 20 recruiting class.

Figure 7. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings (Top 25 only) for each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's average win total for the preceding four years.

  • Again, notice the much tighter distribution of data points in Figure 7 compared to Figures 3 and 5.
  • Three teams have gotten their 4-year win average to 12 or above: Alabama, Florida State, and Clemson. Of these Clemson has underachieved relative to the other two in recruiting rankings. Clemson finished 16th in 2017 and then 7th in the most recent recruiting class after averaging more that 12.3 wins in the those years. The lowest the other two have ranked when averaging more than 12 wins is 6th (Alabama, 2018), with most rankings ending up as either 1st (Alabama) or 3rd (FSU).
  • In Figure 3 you can see that many teams have been able to recruit at a Top 25-level after having only 4 or fewer wins the previous season. Figure 7 shows, however, that it is almost impossible to pull that off if you only average less than 4 wins over a 4-year period preceding the recruiting class.
  • North Carolina managed a 10th ranked finish in recruiting in 2007 despite averaging only 4 wins. Weird. Ole Miss and Tennessee also managed Top 10 recruiting rankings while averaging less than 6 wins. Again, we'll talk more about these classes a little later.

Extrapolations from Wins and Recruiting Data

So far we've seen recruiting rankings compared against three different views of prior wins: wins in the season immediately preceding the recruiting class, wins in the season two years prior to the class, and average wins for the four season prior to the recruiting class. In Figure 8 you can see the trendline for each of the three separate datasets.

Figure 8. The trendlines for each of the full datasets in Figures 2, 4, and 6.

  • The first thing to notice is that the trendlines for the 'Preceding Year' and '2 Years Prior' datasets are nearly identical. These trendlines project for every 1 win either the previous season or two season back, a team's recruiting ranking would be expected to improve by 3.9 spots. You can write this equation to roughly predict a team's recruiting ranking based on a given win total:

Recruiting Ranking = 60 - 3.9 * # of Wins

  • That equation won't be very good, however, as the R-squared number for those trendlines is fairly low. R-squared is a measurement that shows how closely data fits a particular model. In this case the R-squared values for the 'Preceding Year' and '2 Years Prior' trendlines are 22.8% and 24.2%, respectively. In other words, only about 23.5% of recruiting rankings will fit a linear model based on wins from recent single seasons. As we visually saw in the data earlier though, the linear model fits the '2 Years Prior' dataset slightly better than it does the 'Preceding Year' dataset.
  • The correlation coefficient for the 'Preceding Year' and '2 Years Prior' datasets are -0.48 and -0.49, respectively. This indicates a moderate linear relationship.
  • The R-squared value for the linear model of the '4-Year Average' dataset is much better at 35.0%. This certainly jives with a visual inspection of Figure 6 compared to either Figures 2 or 4. The slope of the line here is much steeper, with every increase in 4-year average of 1 win corresponding to a 6.1 improvement in recruiting ranking. The equation for this line can be written as:

Recruiting Ranking = 76 - 6.1 * 4-Year Win Average

  • The steeper slope of the trendline for the '4-Year Average' dataset isn't all that surprising when you consider that improving your 4-year win average by 1 represents a total of 4 additional wins over that period. This corresponds to roughly winning 8% more of your total games.
  • The correlation coefficient for the '4-Year Average' dataset is also much stronger at -0.59, which represents a moderately strong linear relationship.

Improvement in Wins and Recruiting

OK, so now we've shown that there is a (weak) correlation between wins and recruiting rankings, but what about the effect of improvement in wins? Does the excitement generated by a drastic increase in the win column spill over to the recruiting trail?As we see in the Figure 9, the answer to that question is: Nope!

Figure 9. Year-over-year change in Recruiting Rankings from 2003-2018 compared against year-over-year change in win totals in the preceding year.

  • If rising (or falling) win totals had an effect on recruiting ranking, the logical expectation for what you'd see in Figure 9 would be a diagonal line moving from the bottom-left up towards the top-right of the chart. The chart above doesn't show anything like that, however.
  • Given the symmetrical clustering around the origin in the chart, what is shown is that change in recruiting ranking appears to move independently of change in preceding year win totals.
  • This is backed-up by the very low correlation coefficient of this dataset of -0.10, indicating almost no linear relationship whatsoever.
  • So, combining this with what we saw above, we can say that while wins themselves are somewhat correlated with future recruiting performance, change in win totals in themselves do not correspond to change in recruiting rankings.

Top 10 Recruiting with 6 Wins or Less the Previous Year

I've called attention a few times above to the relatively rare phenomenon of teams achieving elite recruiting results despite limited success on the field. Given the small number of teams involved I was able to add labels to the chart in Figure 10. For further clarity I've listed the teams that have managed to pull in Top 10 recruiting classes after winning 6 or less games in the preceding year:

  • 2004 Texas A&M - #10 after 4 wins
  • 2007 North Carolina - #10 after 3 wins
  • 2008 Miami - #1 after 5 wins
  • 2009 Tennessee - #8 after 5 wins
  • 2011 Clemson - #10 after 6 wins
  • 2011 Georgia - #7 after 6 wins
  • 2012 Miami - #10 after 6 wins
  • 2014 Florida - #9 after 4 wins
  • 2014 Tennessee - #7 after 5 wins

Figure 10. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings (Top 10 only) during the period 2002-2018 for teams that finished with less than 6 wins in the preceding year.

Of the 9 teams that have achieved this feat, a surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly???) large number of them were caught up in varying degrees of scandal afterwards.

One team that just missed being included in the list above by squeezing out 7 wins immediately prior to finishing #8 in the recruiting rankings is Ole Miss. The sordid history there has been well documented, but if you have the time you should definitely check out Steven Godfrey's long-form piece on the subject.

Given the assumed prevalence of cheating in college football and relative rarity of any team actually ever getting caught, the fact that 4 out of the 9 teams listed above were later involved in scandals of varying degrees is telling. In a lot of cases, though, appearance on this list could be the result of a traditional recruiting powerhouse simply having a bad year (Geogia in 2011, Will Muschamp's 2014 Florida team), or former blue-blood program getting a jolt of energy from a new head coach in his first full recruiting class during a rebuild (Butch Jones, Tennessee 2014).

A Closer Look at the Rivals

The charts above can be hard to decipher given the 475 data points (on Figures 2, 4, and 6). I'm obviously interested to see look at what happens to all teams in the SEC and ACC, but what I'm most interested to see is how the Gamecocks compare to the two main rivals, Clemson and Georgia.

Figure 11. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings for South Carolina, Georgia, and Clemson each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's win total for the preceding year.

  • As I have noted previously, South Carolina and Georgia have been very consistent this century in terms of recruiting ranking. Georgia just tends to recruiting about 14 spots better than SC on average. Georgia's average ranking is 6.9, with the standard deviation being an incredibly low 2.8.  The Gamecocks' average is 20.7, with a relatively low standard deviation of 7.8.
  • On the other hand, Clemson recruiting has been all over the place the last few 17 cycles. The average ranking is less than 1 better than SC's at 19.8, but the standard deviation is large at 11.4. Clemson has also demonstrated a lot more variance in terms of number of wins, driven by their rapid improvement in that area since the beginning of this decade.

Figure 12. 247 Composite Team Recruiting Rankings for South Carolina, Georgia, and Clemson each year over the period 2002-2018 vs each team's average win total for the preceding four years.

  • Look at how tight that Georgia data cluster is in Figure 12. None of the 28 teams viewed for this analysis came anywhere close to the same level of consistency in both recruiting and wins as Georgia has this century.

Average Results by Team and Conference

As a finale I thought it would be interesting to look at how each team in the SEC and ACC have performed on average for the past 17 years. In Figure 13 I've plotted that data, along with average values and trendlines for each conference.

Figure 13. Average wins over the period 2001 - 2017 and average recruiting ranking over the period 2002 - 2018 for each team and conference.

  • ACC teams have averaged 7.15 wins from 2001 to 2017, and had a average recruiting ranking of 39.1 from 2002 to 2018. SEC teams averaged 7.57 wins and a recruiting ranking of 24.0.
  • Consider that the ACC and SEC both play 113 conference games each year (14 teams, 8 regular season conference games, 1 conference championship game). This means that each conference starts with a baseline average of 4.04 wins per team just from conference games. The SEC has therefore done a good bit better than the ACC in non-conference games and bowl games, with each team netting an average of 0.42 more wins per year. In total, SEC teams have accrued 1,801 wins over the past 17 years, while the ACC has exactly 100 less at 1,701.
  • The head-to-head record between the two conferences over this period is 86-65 in favor of the SEC. This is a win percentage of 57.0%.
  • The bottom-right of the chart is dominated by 4 SEC teams (Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Florida), with an intrusion by only one ACC team (Florida State).
  • The most representative ACC team based on averages is Pittsburg. For the SEC, the most representative team is .......... South Carolina.
  • Looking at the data sets you can almost see two distinct groups, with the ACC teams forming a downward sloping line above the one formed by the SEC teams. The trendlines added for each conference highlight this, and you can see that these are almost parallel with one another. Overall data for the ACC teams tend to be above and to the left of that for the SEC teams.
  • From just looking at the conference averages you can see that SEC teams recruit at a level about 15 spots above ACC teams. Looking at the trendlines you can also say that an average ACC team will win about 1.8 games more per year than an SEC team that recruits at the same level.

Conclusions

I started writing this post way back at the end of June, but as I progressed I kept getting ideas for things to add and other ideas about how to look at the original data. As a result it has grown much longer and more random than I initially intended. There are a lot of words written out above, but here are the main points I think you can draw from the various views of the data:

  • Wins from the preceding year and two years back are nearly indistinguishable in terms of ability to predict recruiting ranking. Both show moderate linear correlation with recruiting, although a linear regression of the data only fits a little less than 25% of the results.
  • The 4-year win average is much better at predicting recruiting rankings, as the data shows a moderately high correlation. A linear regression fits 35% of results.
  • A team that averages less than 4 wins over a 4-year period will not be able to recruit at a Top 25 level. Conversely, a team that averages over 10 wins will almost certainly recruit at a Top 20 level.
  • If a team has a single primary color and that color is blue, the team is most likely terrible.
  • If a team improves (or reduces) it's win total, the magnitude of the improvement / reduction itself doesn't appear to have any impact on any change in the team's recruiting ranking.
  • A team that wins less than 6 games and then hauls in a a Top 10 recruiting class will find itself mixed in with some disreputable company.
  • The SEC has dominated the ACC since 2001 not only in head-to-head record, but also recruiting and total wins.

See the table below for the details of the dataset used to create the above charts.

South Carolina Owns the Big Ten

I was recently reminiscing on the win against Michigan a few months back and that got me thinking about South Carolina's success in bowl season against Big Ten teams so far this century. I pulled up every game the SEC has played against the conference up north during this period using mcubed.net. What I found was exactly what I expected, namely that South Carolina has the most wins and best winning percentage against the Big Ten of any SEC team over the past 18 years. See the data below:

At 6-1, the Gamecocks tie Alabama for the the most wins against Big Ten teams, but have one less loss. Furthermore, the Gamecocks' 6 wins have come against what should be considered that conference's historic powerhouses: Ohio State (twice), Michigan (twice), Nebraska, and Wisconsin. SC's lone loss in this period was against Iowa in the 2009 Outback Bowl. Alabama's 6 wins have come against Michigan State (twice), Penn State (twice), Michigan, and Wisconsin, while their 2 losses were to Ohio State and Minnesota. The third best team in the SEC against the Big Ten, Georgia, has wins against Penn State, Nebraska, Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Purdue, with their 2 losses coming against Nebraska and Michigan State. Overall the SEC is 39-28 against the Big Ten this century, with South Carolina responsible for 15% of those wins.

Outback Bowl: Michigan

The Gamecocks are back playing on New Year's Day against a familiar opponent. Here's some thoughts:

  • Michigan has the 12th best Scoring Defense this year, and the 84th best Scoring Offense. South Carolina is currently 28th and 99th. 
  • South Carolina is 2-1 against Michigan. The three meetings happened in 1980, 1985, and the Outback Bowl in 2013 (2012 season).
  • Michigan has one of the best D-lines in football, and news that Zack Bailey and Donel Stanley may be banged up doesn't bode well for SC. The current word is that they are expected to play.
  • This is the final bowl game for any Big10 team, and currently that conference is 7-0 this bowl season.

The smart money is on Michigan in this one. Their defense is really good and I don't see our Offense having much success against them. On the other hand SC's Defense is more than capable of handling the Wolverine Offense. I'm picking the Gamecocks to pull the upset in a defensive battle. Prediction: USC 17 - Michigan 14

Watch the previous meeting between the Gamecocks and the Wolverines below. This was one of the best games played in all of football during the 2012 season.

2017 Regular Season Review

In my preview of the 2017 season, I said I expected the Gamecocks to go 8-4, and also made some other predictions for the season. I was correct on the final record, although I picked SC to beat Kentucky and lose to Tennessee. Here's a review of some of the predictions I made prior to the season:

  • Skai Moore will lead the team in tackles, making him the first player in program history to do so for 4 years, and one of few players in college football history to accomplish that feat. He will also snag 4 interceptions, making him the South Carolina career record holder.

I was correct on this one. Moore currently leads the team with 88 tackles for the season, 13 more than T.J. Brunson. He is currently tied with Bo Davies for the career interception record after snagging 3 during the regular season.

  • Jake Bentley will throw for 3,500 yards and have a QBR of 155 for the season. He will be 2nd-team All-SEC quarterback.

Bentley regressed down the stretch this year and only finished with 2,555 passing yards. This still put him at 4th in the SEC in that category, however. His rating for the regular season is 130.2, which was 11th best in the conference.

  • Deebo Samuel will have 1,000 receiving yards, 250 rushing yards, 600 return yards, and 15 total TDs. He will be a consensus 1st-team All-SEC player in as both a receiver and all-purpose player.

This totally would have happened if Deebo hadn't broken his leg halfway through the Kentucky game. Deebo had 250 yards receiving with 3 TDs, 30 yards rushing with 1 TD, and returned 100% of his kick-off returns for 2 TDs in only 2.5 games played.

  • Hayden Hurst will break his own receptions and receiving yards record for a tight-end.

His numbers are consistent with those he put up last year, but he likely won't break his own record. He currently has 7 receptions and 98 yards to go to match his totals from last season.

  • Bryan Edwards will have 800 receiving yards and 8 TDs.

Edwards currently has 705 yards receiving and 4 TDs.

  • South Carolina will have two players rush for over 750 yards.

Nope. Only A.J. Turner made it over 500 yards. Rico Dowdle got hurt and only played in 7 games, but he only pulled down 206 yards prior to his injury.

  • Bryson Allen-Williams will have 5 sacks with 15 TFL.

In only 3 games BAW had 3 TFLs, 2 of which were sacks. I think he would have made it to my predicted numbers if he had stayed healthy, especially given the improvement in the Defense seen as the season progressed.

  • South Carolina will finish between 6th and 8th in the SEC in Scoring Defense. They will be in the Top 4 for generating turnovers.

The Gamecocks actually finished better than I expected on Defense. They were 5th best in the SEC in Scoring Defense, giving up only 21.8 points per game. This put them just outside the Top 25 in the FBS at #28. The Gamecocks were #1 in the SEC and #26 in the FBS in generating turnovers, forcing 23 total for the regular season.

  • The Gamecocks will finish 2nd in the SEC East.

Yep, nailed it.

  • South Carolina's Offense will be 4th best in the SEC.

Way off on this one. The Gamecocks ended up with the 12th best Offense in the 14-team SEC.

Overall, the result of regular was just as I expected (8-4), but the way the Gamecocks arrived there was a surprise. Given the young talent coming back on Offense, and the lack of proven depth on Defense, the expectation was that the Offense would lead the way as the strongest unit. Even with a lot of injuries to key personnel throughout the season, Jake Bentley and crew ending up being a disappointment. The Defense, on the other hand, played out of their minds and put together a Top30 performance. However they got there, I'll take it. Finishing 8-4 represents a significant improvement for the Gamecocks, and puts them on solid footing for the 2018 season.

Week 13: Clemson

It's hard to believe we've arrived at the end of the regular season. I'll be watching this one live from Williams-Brice and then heading back home early tomorrow. I've seen two Carolina-Clemson games live in the last 10 seasons: 2013 and 2015. The 2013 win was one of my favorite of all time, and a greatly overmatched Gamecocks squad gave Clemson all they wanted in 2015. Let's hope they continue to play well with me in attendance. Here's some thoughts:

  • South Carolina is currently 20th in the nation in Scoring Defense, while Clemson has the nation's 23rd ranked Scoring Offense. Clemson is fairly one-dimensional and depends on the run. SC is 40th in the nation in defending the run, but has been performing a lot better than 40th in recent weeks. I expect the Defense to keep Clemson from putting a lot of points on the board.
  • Clemson's Scoring Defense is currently ranked 3rd in nation, South Carolina is 89th in Scoring Offense. This is the match-up that represents Clemson's biggest advantage in the game. Bentley needs to have the game of his career (up to this point) and the Gamecocks have to find a way to run the ball. If the Gamecocks can get 150 yards rushing I think they can win the game.
  • Clemson kicker Alex Spence actually has a higher (albeit very low) than Parker White. Spence's 54.5% slightly edges White's 52.4%. White has 10 more attempts on the season, though, and has been more consistent of late. In a close game, I've got to give the edge to South Carolina in the kicking department.
  • The Gamecocks are 14th in Turnover Margin at +9. Clemson is tied for 45th at +3. This is the key stat that the Gamecocks have to use to their advantage. I expect the Offense to struggle to move the ball, and the Defense is going to need to force at least 2 turnovers to give the Offense a short field.
  • Jake Bentley is responsible for more TDs this season than Kelly Bryant. Jake has 21 (15 Pass, 6 Run) compared with 20 for Bryant (10 Pass, 10 Run).
  • Watching the videos of the player media availabilities this week, one thing that struck me was the intensity in the eyes of every single player interviewed. I think they've been looking forward to this one for the entire year, and will come out ready to play.
  • One interesting thing I noticed is that the Gamecocks are 5-0 against Clemson when entering this game with 8 or more wins.

The line opened with Clemson favored by 15.5, but that has since fallen to 13.5 as I write this. I think realistically SC has about a 25% chance to win this game, but I just can't force myself to pick against them in this one. Prediction: USC 24 - Clemson 21. The lady of the house doesn't think the Gamecocks will pull off the upset, and has the score as USC 24 - Clemson 31.

South Carolina 31 - Wofford 10: Thoughts on Win #8

Whew

We don't play them often (thankfully), but that's probably the best I can ever remember the Gamecocks performing against Wofford. Here's some thoughts.

  • With the victory the Gamecocks grabbed their 8th win of the season. Not many thought they would get there in year 2 of a major rebuild, but some certainly did. In my opinion Will Muschamp has done the best coaching job in the SEC this year.
  • I saw something after the game that I have never seen before. While the SC players were congregated down towards the student section for the playing of the alma mater, the Wofford players stood respectfully behind them near the center of the field until the band had finished. I was really impressed with the Terrier's discipline during the game, and according to our players there wasn't much cut blocking in the game. I've got a lot of respect for those guys and hope they can win the FCS championship this year.
  • After the first two drives ended in a punt and a turnover on downs, the Gamecocks pretty much did whatever they wanted on Offense. The next 5 drives resulted in 4 TDs and a FG, with the final drive ending in the victory formation on the Wofford 5-yard line.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

After every Gamecocks win I'll hand out a dozen wings to the players most responsible for the victory.

Jake Bentley

Bentley had one of his most accurate games throwing the ball in his young career, completing 78.6% of his passes for 194 yards. That's after at least 4 drops by his receivers. In recent weeks Jake has become quite the weapon in the red zone, and he added 2 rushing TDs to his season total in the game. He also threw a great TD pass to Bryan Edwards.

A.J. Turner

A.J. continued his late season surge by leading the team in rushing with 69 yards on 11 carries. He had 1 TD run in the game, and also passed 1,000 career rushing yards. A.J. contributed on special teams as well, performing great as a gunner on kick returns.

Skai Moore

Skai led the team in tackles with 5 solo stops and tied the school record with his 14th career interception in the 1st Half. He's guaranteed to go down in history as one of the best to ever wear the Garnet & Black.

Ty'Son Williams

Ty'Son is back. He had 58 yards rushing on only 8 carries, for a fantastic average of 7.3 yards / carry.

Bryan Edwards

Edwards caught 8 balls for 90 yards and a TD.

D.J. Wonnum

Wonnum had 2 TFL in the game and now leads the SEC in that statistic.

Dante Sawyer

Sawyer forced his 5th fumble of the season and is currently alone at #1 in the nation in that statistic. He is forcing an amazing 0.5 fumbles per game this year.

Rashad Fenton

Fenton grabbed his 1st interception of the season against the Terriers.

Watch the full game again below.

Week 12: Wofford

There's not a whole lot to say about this one. Wofford is an upper echelon FCS team (ranked 8th), and in this game I think that may actually work in our favor. See, Wofford is eyeing a deep FCS playoff run, and with the playoffs beginning next week I'm counting on them to prioritize team health in this one. In other words, this game is not that important to them. They'll certainly play hard and give it a shot early, but they're expected to lose this one and their main goal is to have everyone ready to go for the playoffs. If the Gamecocks get ahead by a few scores early, I can see Wofford sending in the reserves. The main goal for the Gamecocks is efficiency on offense and keeping the DL's legs safe against Wofford's cut blocks. I don't expect this one to be contested heavily in the 2nd Half.

Prediction: USC 35 - Wofford 13. The lady of the house expects USC 31 - Wofford 24. Given that I'm here in SC this week I've got some bonus predictions: Teriyaki Dad has USC 38 - Wofford 21, and Teriyaki Mom comes in with USC 35 - Wofford 17.

Week 11: Florida

I've got to catch a flight shorty so I won't be giving many thoughts on this one. Mainly I'm just really excited that I will be seeing South Carolina play a SEC game for the first time since 2010. Here's some brief thoughts:

  • Looking over the roster, Florida is a lot more talented than their record and recent play would suggest, even after losing multiple players to injury / felony credit card fraud charges. This is the biggest indictment of the Jim McElwain regime, as they have failed to develop or provide a decent scheme to top talent in order to put them in position to win football games.
  • Will Muschamp has said nothing but nice things about Florida this week, but you know he is licking his chops at a chance to embarrass that fanbase. And this is a fanbase that certainly deserves to be embarrassed. It is more than evident that Florida would be in a lot better position on the field and financially if they had showed more patience with Coach Boom. This is one of the reasons I'm always against knee-jerk 'FIRE COACH X' movements from fans. Continuous instability tends to degrade a program a lot in the long run, with Tennessee and now Florida being good examples of this.
  • Florida actually threw the ball around a lot better with Malik Zaire under center last week in a blowout loss to Missouri than they have all season. I don't think he'll have as much success against a Gamecock defense that is playing well right now. Hopefully Skai gets that 14th interception this game against a home-state school.
  • On Offense, the Gamecocks should be able to run it better than they have been against an injury-depleted Florida Defense. This will open things up for Bentley to torch their true-Freshman cornerbacks.

The line on this game opened around 9 in favor of the Gamecocks, then stayed at around 7 for most of the week. A lot of money appears to have come in recently on the Florida side, however, as the line currently sits at 5.5 as I type this. I think the Gamecocks defense is going to be too much for the Gators to overcome in this one. Prediction: USC 27 - Florida 13. The lady of house has USC 28 - Florida 21.

You can see last year's loss to the Gators below.

Fried Chicken

Since relocating to Japan permanently in May 2008, I've been forced to wake up in the wee hours each Sunday morning during the Fall to watch the Gamecocks play with the aid of my trusty Slingbox. After rarely missing a home game in the preceding 20 or so years, I've now missed nearly 10 complete full seasons of South Carolina Football. During that time I've only had the chance to see 5 games live:

#18 South Carolina 17 - #2 Auburn 56: Georgia Dome, December 4, 2010

The Gamecocks' first and only appearance in the SEC Championship game. I flew back specifically to see this game. After keeping it close at Auburn in Week 4 that season, I was optimistic that the Gamecocks could pull out a win in a rematch, especially after they dominated at both Florida and Clemson in the preceding three weeks. I was unfortunately mistaken. The Gamecocks hung with Auburn in the first half, right up until the Tigers' score on a Hail Mary at the end of the half. I'd never experienced a football game in a dome before, and I found it very strange. The air didn't move and it didn't sound right in there.

#12 South Carolina 70 - Coastal Carolina 10: W-B, November 23, 2013

Nothing much to say about this one, other than it was the first win I personally witnessed since the Gamecocks held on to win 21-15 at Chapel Hill on October 13, 2007. One of the greatest South Carolina teams ever teed-off on an overmatched FCS squad. This was the appetizer to the main Thanksgiving course that year.

#10 South Carolina 31 - #6 Clemson 17: W-B, November 30, 2013

My all-time favorite game. Cold weather, one of Clemson's best ever teams (up to that point), the first ever match-up of Top10 teams in the history of the series, the final game at Williams-Brice for several Gamecock legends, the list goes on and on. Oh, and this was the 5th consecutive double-digit beatdown of the Tigers. Unfortunately this is the last Gamecocks win I have witnessed personally.

South Carolina 22 - The Citadel 23: W-B, November 21, 2015

No comment.....

South Carolina 32 - #1 Clemson 37: W-B, November 28, 2015

After laying a total egg against the Citadel, the Gamecocks gave the #1 ranked Tigers all they wanted a week later. It looked like they actually had a chance to pull off the upset deep into the 4th, but ended up letting Clemson extend their lead. The Gamecocks kept the score closer than it really was with a score from Shon Carson in the final seconds of the game.

So, in the 5 games I have attended since the end of the 2007 season, The Gamecocks are 2-3. I'm heading back to SC tomorrow and will end up increasing my 10-year game attendance by 60%. I'll be bringing the lady of the house with me for her first live football experience, and I think she is ready. Hopefully by the time I get back to Tokyo my record will be 5-3. Go Cocks.

Week 10: Georgia

The reason people buy lottery tickets isn't that they really think they're going to hit the jackpot. What they're paying for is the ability to fantasize about what they would do and how their lives would change, and they get to have those dreams right up until the numbers are picked. The Gamecocks playing a big-time game against the #1 team in the nation is a lot like that for me. All week I've enjoyed imagining the impact of a huge South Carolina win between the hedges, and how much fun it would be to watch that win unfold. The chances of the Gamecocks pulling out a victory may be a lot better than those of hitting the lottery, but unfortunately they're not that much better.

  • Apart from QB and maybe DB, there's not a position group where Georgia is not more talented, more experienced, and deeper. Every Gamecock player, and especially Bentley, is going to need to play out of their minds for SC to have a chance in this game.
  • SC has to keep the Nickel on the bench and drop a safety into the box on every play. Fromm will hit some big passes against this, but that is better than giving 8 yards rushing on every play. Georgia is one of the best teams in the nation in converting 3rd Downs, because they're so successful on 1st and 2nd Downs that they almost always have 3rd & Short.
  • The best strategy on offense is difficult to determine. Ideally they would be able to run the ball and take up as much time as possible. Accomplishing this against a great Georgia front-7 is not likely however, so the Gamecocks' best bet will be aggressiveness in the vertical passing game. Georgia surprisingly hasn't racked up that many sacks this year, so Bentley should be able to find time to throw. Shi Smith will need to use his speed to get behind the safeties and Edwards and OrTre Smith will need to win some 50/50 balls. Hurst needs to be threat in the middle as well, although I expect us to throw balls towards the sidelines to limit turnovers.
  • Speaking of turnovers, the Gamecocks will need to force about 3 of these, and give up none to have a chance in the 4th Quarter.
  • The Gamecocks are in a perfect position really. Everybody already expects this to be a blowout, so there's not much downside. They can play loose and be aggressive and just have fun. Georgia is the team with all the expectations. Coming off a big rivalry game, with another big one coming up next week (against a better team than SC), and having that #1 ranking next to their name can't help them. They have demolished each of their last 6 opponents by an average of 31.3 points, so they're due for a letdown. Will a letdown for the Dawgs be enough for the Gamecocks to take advantage?

The line on the game currently sits at Georgia -23.5. Prediction: USC 17 - Georgia 38. The lady of the house is more optimistic for the Gamecocks' chances and has the score at USC 35 - Georgia 34.

See last year's Sunday match-up with the Bulldogs below.

USC 34 - Vanderbilt 27: Thoughts on Win #6

Anchor Up

For a game where Vanderbilt scored first and had a chance to tie late in the 4th Quarter, it sure felt like South Carolina had control of this one the entire time. Here's some thoughts:

  • With the win over Vanderbilt South Carolina is now 4-2 in the SEC. This guarantees that they will will at least tie for the 8th best conference record in school history, and secure their first 0.500 or better SEC record since 2013. This was the 3rd consecutive SEC win for the Gamecocks this season.
  • South Carolina only punted the ball 3 times in 10 true possessions. They got points on 6 possession, with the opening drive of the 2nd Half ending in a missed FG. They were also 100% in the redzone, scoring TDs on each of their 3 trips inside the 20.
  • The 34 points were the most scored by the Carolina offense in any game this season. Kurt Roper's gameplan and execution was great.
  • The 212 rushing yards were the most the Gamecocks have managed all season. The rushing attack has improved steadily over the past few games, and this is mainly the result of better play on the offensive line as well as better play design.
  • Vanderbilt has only given up 10 sacks this season, and the Gamecocks didn't have much luck rushing the passer. A lot of this is due to the Commodores keeping 7 guys in to block on longer pass plays. Given that it is disappointing that the Gamecock secondary gave up so many yards through the air. You have to give Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur and Kalija Lipscomb credit though; some of those passes and catches were undefendable.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

After every win I'll hand out a dozen wings to the players most responsible for the victory.

A.J. Turner

Had the best game of his career rushing for 121 yards and a TD on 15 carries (8.1 YPC) and also caught 4 balls for 24 yards.

Jake Bentley

Jake Bentley was more like Jake Aston Martin in this game. He ran for 47 yards on 6 carries (7.8 YPC), and threw for another TD. I'm sure Vanderbilt safety LaDarius Wiley did not enjoy the film session on Sunday, as he let the whitest QB alive put him on skates South Carolina's first drive.

Skai Moore

Skai Moore continues to have a huge impact on every game. He racked up 6 tackles, one for a loss, a pass defensed and a QB hurry. A questionable interference call on Chris Lammons negated what would have been his school record-tying 14th career interception.

Parker White

White has quietly become a pretty decent kicker. He was 2 for 3 on FG attempts in the game, and his one miss was 47-yarder that I think he starts hitting regularly with more experience. In total he accounted for 10 of SC's 34 points in the game.

Alan Knott

Knott has put together a solid season at center and has been the lone constant on the OL this season. He was recognized as the SEC Offensive Lineman of the week for the Vanderbilt game.

Chris Lammons

Led the team in tackles with 10 and defended 2 passes.

Hayden Hurst

Hurst only caught 4 balls for 31 yards in the game and had a 6-yard run, but his blocking was key to some of Carolina's explosive runs in the game.

Shi Smith

Shi is coming on strong in the back-half of the season as many expected he would. He led all receivers with 76 yards on 5 catches. He kicked things off with a big 21-yard reception on the SC's offensive play from scrimmage. Later in the game he hauled in a 36-yard TD reception with a great route on an RPO play where he initially faked the slant and then ran by the safety.

Steven Montac

Grabbed the only turnover of the game with an interception in the 2nd Quarter.

That's all I've got for the Vanderbilt game. I would like to point out that the lady of the house was pretty close on her prediction (USC 30 - Vandy 27). She actually nailed Vandy's part of the score. Not bad for someone who is less than halfway through reading 'すぐわかるアメリカンフットボール'.

Week 9: Vanderbilt

One thing I never hear about is any fan base hating Vanderbilt. Their in-state rival (Tennessee) couldn't care less about them, although Vanderbilt has amazingly won 3 of the last 5 in that series so this year's match-up could have a little more heat than usual. The reason no one hates Vanderbilt is because they pity them. This team has only had 7 winning seasons since 1959. Chris Lee at vandysports.com took a look at how Derek Mason compares to past Vanderbilt coaches, and pointed out how poorly this team has been since the '60s. Interestingly, Vanderbilt was a consistent national power in the 70 years prior to 1960, having only 9 losing seasons during that span. As Chris Lee explains, Vanderbilt refused to increase athletic scholarships when the NCAA drastically increased the limit, and from that point onward Vanderbilt football has been irrelevant. This is a team that is 'gritty' and 'fights hard' every year according to the media, but then goes and loses 75% of their games. To put plainly, Vanderbilt is not a team you lose to if you are a supposed team on the rise.

  • One very interesting stat is that South Carolina and Vanderbilt both have exactly 598 wins entering the game. Vanderbilt does have 40 more losses on the resume, however. South Carolina leads the series 22-4.
  • Despite having one of the better running backs in the conference in Ralph Webb, the Commodores are terrible running the ball, averaging less than 93 yards / game. The bad news is that the Gamecocks are not much better, only rushing for just under 111 yards / game, and lost Rico Dowdle for the season last week.
  • The Vanderbilt defense looked incredible during the first 3 games of the 2017 season, giving up a total of 13 points. Then they decided they wanted 'Bama, but got obliterated to the tune of 59 points in that game. This apparently gave them a severe case of PTSD, as opponents are averaging almost 47 points / game since then (including the dumpster fire offense of Florida getting 38!!!). Which Vanderbilt defense will show up after the bye? It will be important for the Gamecocks to score early and take them out of the game.
  • The Gamecocks are getting Zach Bailey, Cory Helm, and Malik Young back from injuries this week. I think Sadarius Hutcherson and Blake Camper have played well enough the past two games to earn some playing time in the game. We may therefore see some subbing on OL, which should keep everyone more fresh than usual, and allow the Gamecocks to run the ball effectively in the 2nd Half.
  • I expect Jake Bentley to be more accurate with his throws after working on his mechanics during the bye. I think we'll see a completion percentage north of 65%.

Vegas has the Gamecocks as 7-point favorites in the game. I think they pull ahead late in the game and beat the spread. Prediction: USC 27 - Vanderbilt 13. The lady of the house has the Gamecocks winning a close one: USC 30 - Vanderbilt 27.

Watch Will Muschamp's first win as a Gamecock below.

すぐわかるアメリカンフットボール

I recently bought a Japanese book titled 'すぐわかるアメリカンフットボール', or 'Quickly Understand American Football', for the lady of the house. While football does exist in Japan, it has one of the smallest followings and its rules are not well understood. I got this for her to prepare for her first live football game, which she will witness at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 11th.

すぐわかるアメリカンフットボール (Sugu Wakaru Amerikan Futtobooru)

So far she seems to be enjoying it, as she was testing me on penalty signals the other night. On the first page it explains that football isn't really a game played with a ball, rather it is a game of gaining / losing territory, and the ball merely serves as a marker for delineating this territory. I had never really thought about the game this way and found this explanation intriguing.

USC 15 - Tennessee 9: Thoughts on Win #5

Black Day(s) for Orange; Hope for Humanity

Evil is real. Fortunately in some parts of the world evildoers clad themselves in approximate hues of safety orange (some almost constantly in recent years), allowing them to be seen from 3 towns away and thereby easily avoided. Long-term exposure to this sight does however cause grievous wounds to the retinas of the righteous, and a state of nearly perpetual nausea to those with a shred of common sense. Given this, Week 7 of the 2017 college football season will go down in history as a victory for humanity against not just evil, but good taste as well. Yes, I'm well aware that our provisional allies in Week 7 garb themselves in a similar palette, and indeed even call themselves the 'Orange', but we must remember that these people are from New York and therefore cannot be expected to abide by the rules of decent civilization. So, to Dino Babers and Syracuse, and to the men of South Carolina football, I say well done sirs.

miyagi.gif
  • Tennessee is obviously not having a great season, but they do have a win against a solid Georgia Tech squad, and a road win against a division rival is something that is never guaranteed in the SEC.
  • This was only the 3rd time that the Gamecocks have ever managed to win in Knoxville, with the other wins coming in 2005 and 2011. So the Gamecocks are now firmly on pace to win in Knoxville every 6 years. The series record is now 9-25-2, with SC winning 6 of the last 10.
  • Interestingly, Clemson has lost the same week every time the Gamecocks have won in Knoxville. They lost to Georgia Tech in both 2005 and 2011 on October 29th.
  • The South Carolina defense now has 17 sacks after 7 games this season. This is 3 more than they had in 13 games in 2014, 3 less than they had in 12 games in 2015, and 4 less than they had in 13 games last year. They are currently 5th in the SEC, just behind Alabama. The coaches have done a great job manufacturing pressure so far this year.
  • South Carolina has now won every coin toss this season. The odds of that happening are less than 0.8%.
  • Excluding the final drive of the game, Tennessee moved the ball a total of 6 yards in the 2nd Half, including penalties. This was good for  1.2 yards / drive. Absolutely brutal domination by the defense.
  • John Kelly, arguably one of the best backs in the conference, was held to 58 yards on 16 carries, for an average of 3.6 yards / carry for the game. He had a long run of 24 yards on Tennessee's first drive, completely trucking Jamyest Williams in the process, but averaged less than 2.3 yards / carry on his other 15 rushes.
  • Credit is again owed to Jeff Dillman, as the Gamecocks just flat wore out the Volunteers in the 2nd Half. The offense was able to run the ball nearly at will, and the defense was beyond dominant at the line of scrimmage. The Gamecocks seemed to get more physical as the game went on, while the Vols wilted.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

After every South Carolina win I'll hand out a dozen wings to the players most responsible for the victory.

Parker White

After a terrible start to his season White hit all 3 of his FG attempts with a long of 47 yards. The Gamecocks would have lost this game with Clemson's kicker.

D.J. Wonnum

My man Wonnum had 6 solo tackles and 2 sacks in the game. This dude is playing lights out right now and earned his 2nd consecutive Defensive Lineman of the Week honor from the SEC.

Chris Lammons

Tennessee's punter was booming his punts, but Lammons made 4 tough returns to keep the Gamecocks from being pinned back near their end zone too often. He also saved the day by successfully defending the pass on the final play of the game.

Skai Moore

Led the team in tackles with 9 and also got himself a sack where he knocked the body thetans out of the QB.

Dante Sawyer

Sawyer is having an All-SEC-type season in his senior year, and got a sack and his 4th forced fumble of the year against Tennessee.

Taylor Stallworth

Was solid defending the run all game and knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage in what should have been the final play of the game.

A.J. Turner

A.J. had his breakout game for the season, rushing for 86 yards on 14 carries and scoring the game's only TD.

Bryan Edwards

As the Tennessee DC said, 'a 50/50 ball with Bryan Edwards is more like 80/20.' This is true. Edwards has been and continues to be the most consistent receiving target for Bentley, catching 6 balls for 63 yards. He is a great blocker on the perimeter as well, as you can see in Turner's TD run above.

Rashad Fenton

Fenton continues to keep his name out of the stat sheet, in that teams hardly ever throw his way. He has not given up more than 4 receptions or more than 43 yards against an opponent this year, and of course no one has scored a TD against him. He held Marquez Callaway to only 37 yards on 4 catches, with 33 of those yards coming on Tennessee's final drive when the Gamecocks softened their coverage. His pass interference penalty in the end zone with 9 seconds left was actually a heads-up play, as the yards aren't important in that situation. After the game he absolutely destroyed Tennessee WR Tyler Byrd, who thought it wise to doubt the existence of Fenton Island on Twitter.

That's all I've got for the win over Tennessee. Watch the full game again below.

Big Win BBQ 2.0

I am an acknowledged fan of combining BBQ with football. Given the 1AM kick-off of the game against Tennessee, this time around I decided to make my own pulled pork in the crockpot for dinner before the game. Pork shoulder is difficult to find around these parts, but pork loin is readily available just about everywhere. First, I seared all sides of two hunks of pork loin.

Searing a 1 lb. hunk of pork loin.

Next, I mixed up some standard BBQ sauce with some apple cider vinegar and added brown sugar, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, cayenne pepper, onion powder, and a bouillon cube. This all goes into the crockpot along with the seared meat.

In the crockpot with all the spices and seasonings.

After topping the mixture off with a bit of water, I proceeded to get on with my life for the rest of the day on Saturday.

10 hours later.

Roughly 10 hours later I was all set. I removed the meat and got to pulling.

Pulling the portk.

This stuff was perfectly soft and flavorful.

Pork all pulled and ready to go.

I took some of the juice left in the crockpot and cooked it down in a frying pan to reduce it to a thick sauce. This is the best BBQ sauce you will ever taste. 

 Table set with simple accoutrements.

Table set with simple accoutrements.

I just got my crockpot delivered from the US a few months ago so this was only the 2nd time I've made pulled pork. It's just as good if not better than anything you can find locally. The perfect meal leading up to a big Gamecocks win.

Week 7: Tennessee

The Gamecocks are headed to the decrepit Neyland Stadium to face off against the Champions of Life™. A win would let them match their total number of SEC wins from last year and give them their 3rd ever victory in Knoxville. Here's some thoughts:

  • What can I say about Tennessee football that has not already been said about Afghanistan? The Tennessee program is a mess. Players are fighting each other at practice, with Shy Tuttle 'falling on a helmet' and cracking his orbit and starting offensive lineman Trey Smith getting kicked in the face by starting DE Darrell Taylor. Taylor is suspended indefinitely as a result of the fight. The stuff coming out of Butch Jones's mouth is goofier by the day. Several of the reigning 'Champions of Life' apparently got plenty of 'leadership reps' during the 'best bye week in a very, very long time'. This team has had something like 4 starters quit in the middle of the season the past few years. That is not good, nor is it normal.
  • As a result of the turmoil and the product on the field so far this year Butch Jones is coaching for his job. He seems like a very earnest guy, and his situation almost makes you feel bad for him. But then you remember that time when Jones called a player a 'traitor to the team' for aiding a rape victim and that he'll receive around $10M when Tennessee eventually fires him at some point this year. Don't feel bad for Butch Jones.
  • As for the Tennessee faithful, anyone who wears orange on Saturdays in the Fall deserves every bit of pain and frustration they receive. Syracuse fans are exempt from this (this week only).
  • Word on the street is that Jarrett Guarantano is a bit like Jalen Hurd 2.0, in that he feels very entitled and is not a popular dude in the locker room. He will get his first significant action and start against South Carolina later this evening. I'm pretty sure this is a bad move on the part of Tennessee. Guarantano is currently 12 of 24 for 54 yards and a TD this year, putting him right at 2.3 yards / attempt. That is terrible.
  • What the Carolina defense lacks in talent they make-up for with scheme and unprecedented levels of turnt. They are extremely multiple, which will make it very difficult on an inexperienced QB. They will be able to stack the box to defend against John Kelly, and dare Tennessee to pass the ball with a playbook dumb-ed down for Guarantano's benefit.
  • South Carolina is currently 13th in the nation in turnover margin at +7. Tennessee is tied for 104th at -4. I expect the Gamecocks to win the turnover battle in Knoxville and improve their ranking.
  • The Volunteers are averaging 24.2 points / game in 5 games this season, but they're getting worse by the week. The Gamecocks have consistently held teams below their season average in points and I expect that to continue.
  • On defense the Volunteers are fairly talented. Almost their entire starting DL is composed of former 5-star recruits, although due to injury and suspension depth is close to non-existent at some positions. The are giving up a ton of rushing yards and very few passing yards, but those numbers are skewed from playing teams like Georgia Tech, Florida, and Georgia, who either can't or don't pass much. The Vols will get some stops against a South Carolina offense that has been unable to consistently move the ball so far this year. SC has the better QB by far, however, and in the end that will be the difference in the game.
  • South Carolina has amazingly won every coin toss so far this season (6 in a row). There's less than a 1.6% chance of that occurring I think, but I may be forgetting a factorial or something.
  • The key for SC will be scoring early and taking the crowd out of it. The noon kick-off certainly helps, and Neyland should be much less than full considering they're begging students to come and offering them 8 tickets per person. If SC can get a double-digit lead in the 1st Half I think the boos start raining down on the Volunteers and the place empties out quickly. This would be a great point in the Gamecocks' favor with current Vol commit and South Carolina target Jaycee Horn, who will be at the game for his official visit.
  • Tennessee back-up receiver Tyler Byrd, despite having the same number of catches and TDs (although less yards) than our weak-side linebacker, thought it would be a good idea to taunt one of the best cornerbacks in the conference in Rashad Fenton. See his orginal tweet and Deebo Samuel's response below.
  • Finally, here's what current Tennessee freshman offensive lineman and former Gamecock target K'Rohjn Calbert had to say after his visit to Williams-Brice for the Tennessee game last year:
I wasn’t scared in the sense for my life, but I was scared because there were a lot of things going on in that locker room, nothing illegal, just words being used, ‘We’re going to kill Tennessee.' Really, it was like a riot. It was, who was hungry enough to come out and take somebody’s head off, like literally, like they really wanted to kill Tennessee, like slaughter everybody. It was a savage mentality.

I've got to say that when I read this last year I thought it was one of the greatest and most complimentary things anyone had ever said about the South Carolina program. K'Rohjn obviously was not enthused about the intensity he witnessed and committed to Tennessee shortly thereafter. Tennessee is soft; South Carolina is savage.

Most national and regional analysts predict the Gamecocks to win a close one in Knoxville, and I concur. Surprisingly, Tennessee opened as 2-point favorites, with the line moving towards Tennessee and now sitting at a 3-point spread. Prediction: USC 24 - Tennessee 17

See last year's big win against Tennessee below.

USC 48 - Arkansas 22: Thoughts on Win #4

One Moment Please.......We Have Just Received Word that the SC Defense has Scored Again

After a three difficult weeks where the Gamecocks struggled, I did not see this beatdown coming. Here's some thoughts:

  • After going up 41-10 early in the 4th Quarter, the Gamecocks took the opportunity to get some reps for reserve players on defense. We unfortunately gave up two TD drives of 75 yards and 58 yards, although the defense did get one of their own with Nixon's pick-6. Through 3 quarters the Gamecocks held Arkansas to 158 total yards of offense and 10 points. The Gamecocks defense had 152 yards off turnover returns in the game. Also, for the game Arkansas only generate 3.3 yards / rush. That is elite defense.
  • As evidence of this, three Gamecock defensive players made PFF's SEC top performer list this week: D.J. Wonnum, Dante Sawyer, and Skai Moore.
  • The offense continued to struggle on 3rd Down, converting only 4 of 13. The good news is that they were fairly efficient on other downs, with an improved running game being key to this. For the game SC had 358 yards of total offense. As a result of the defense scoring twice in the 3rd Quarter, essentially staying on the field the entire time, and scoring again in the 4th, the Gamecock offense lost out on 3 possessions or so. Based on average yards / drive they would have had roughly 475 yards of total offense with the additional possessions.
  • Given the patchwork nature of the SC offensive line in the game and how poorly they performed against Texas A&M the previous week, I was surprised at how well they controlled the line of scrimmage against an SEC opponent. Wolford is a great OL coach, and this reminds me of his previous stop with Gamecocks in 2009 where we saw continuous improvement throughout the year for what was a terrible line at the beginning of the season. This bodes well for the remainder of the season, especially since we should get Bailey and Helms back from injury shortly.
  • ESPN FPI now has the Gamecocks slight favorites or better in 4 of the remaining 6 games of the season. As it appears now, the Tennessee and Florida games should determine whether SC finishes 6-6 or 8-4 this year.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

After every win I'll give out a dozen wings to the players most responsible for the victory. Given their performance in the game this will be a very defense-heavy edition.

D.J. Wonnum

Wonnum had one of the most dominating performances by a defensive player that I have seen in a long time. He didn't generate a lot of stats, but he knocked down 2 passes at the line of scrimmage and was disruptive all night.

Skai Moore

Skai got his second interception of the year and returned it for a TD to begin the rout in the 3rd Quarter. This was the 13th of his career, putting him just one shy of tying the school record. He also had 2 TFL, including a sack, and a QB Hurry.

Dante Sawyer

Dante Sawyer had 2 TFL including a sack to along with a forced fumble that Brunson returned for a TD. He has amazingly forced 3 fumbles in the first 6 games of the season.

T.J. Brunson

Recovered 2 fumbles during the game, one of which he returned 73 yards for the 2nd defensive score in the 3rd Quarter.

Chris Lammons

This guy is having a great senior season. He tied for the lead in tackles against Arkansas, and had a TFL and a defended pass. He set the tone for the game by forcing a fumble on the Razorbacks' 2nd play of the game.

Keisean Nixon

Jumped a hitch route in the 4th Quarter to get the Gamecocks' 3rd defensive score of the night.

Hayden Hurst

Hurst led all receivers with 76 yards on 2 catches, one of which was the 62-yard TD reception early in the 2nd Quarter. He became only the third SC Tight End to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a career.

Bryan Edwards

His highlight-reel catch in the final seconds of the 1st Half gave the Gamecocks a lead they would not relinquish.

Rico Dowdle

Rico ran the ball really hard after finally getting healthy, gaining 5.5 yards / carry over 11 carries as part of an improved Gamecock rushing attack.

Ty'Son Williams

Cool TD reception, bro.

Donell Stanley

The OL had a great game and totally dominated the Arkansas defensive front. Donell Stanley was solid all night at RG.

That's all I've got for the win against Arkansas. Hopefully we see a few more games like this one in the back half of the season.