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.

Week 6: Arkansas

It's been a busy week so I'll have to keep this preview short. This is the first time the Gamecocks face their old cross-division rival since 2013, when SC laid a 52-7 beatdown on the Razorbacks in Bret Bielema's first season as head coach. Arkansas leads the series 13-9. Here's some thoughts:

  • Arkansas enters the game at 2-2, and hasn't won a game against Power 5 competition yet. Their two losses have come against TCU and Texas A&M (in overtime). The current line has Arkansas favored by 3.
  • Bielema has moved Arkansas' defense to a 3-4 this year from a 4-3. This will be the first 3-4 defense Carolina has faced so far this year, which could give the offensive line trouble (that is to say, trouble in addition to the loss of 3 of the top 6 linemen to injury).
  • On Offense, Arkansas is a downhill running team, and is one of the few teams remaining in college football to feature heavy use a fullback. This could be an issue given the depth at DL and LB for the Gamecocks.
  • Austin Allen was expected to be one of the best QBs in the conference this year, and so far his stats are very close to those of Bentley's.
  • David Williams will be making his return to Williams-Brice for the final time, but will be wearing away whites. He's currently 3rd on the team in rushing and tied for the team lead with 4 TDs. Respect to Muschamp for not restricting Williams' transfer (the fact that coaches have the power to do this is ridiculous and is a major issue in college football). Having Williams on the opposing sideline certainly can't help the Gamecocks' chances in this game, but Muschamp has certainly demonstrated that he really is a players' coach by his actions in this situation.

I think both of these teams have a lot of issues on each side of the ball, and in my opinion this one is pretty much a pick-em. Given my well established homer status and the fact that the game will be played in Columbia, I'm giving the edge to the Gamecocks. Prediction: USC 24 - Arkansas 21

Week 5: Texas A&M

I really don't know what to think about this game. I originally projected this game as a loss, but A&M has had a lot more negativity around the program at this stage than I was anticipating. Here's some thoughts:

  • This game begins a 3-game stretch where South Carolina could potentially wreak havoc on SEC coaching ranks. Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Tennessee all have coaches on the upper-end of the hot seat rankings, and those seats are trending hotter after the first 4 weeks of the season. As it was with Will Muschamp at Florida, a loss to a mediocre South Carolina team could put these fan bases over the top. Given the buyouts involved this is unlikely, especially for Bielema, but it could happen.
  • With the inability of true-Freshman Kellen Mond to throw the ball consistently, the Aggies have successfully relied on their rushing attack this season. They're averaging over 260 yards / game on the ground, and I expect the Gamecocks to stack the box early and dare A&M to throw. South Carolina is currently ranked 55th in rushing defense after 4 games.
  • The competition the Aggies have faced so far hasn't been great. UCLA beat the Aggies in unbelievable fashion in the first game, but is giving up over 43 points / game and lost to Memphis. Arkansas has only beat Florida A&M and got hammered by TCU. They were tied with middle-of-the-pack FCS team Nicholls State in the forth quarter. Their only convincing win was against 1-3 Louisiana from the Sun Belt. It's hard to tell how well the A&M offense will perform in this game, since they haven't faced a team with a decent defense yet this season.
  • Now that Deebo Samuel is out for the season, A&M's Christian Kirk is the most dynamic player in the conference. Parker White will need to keep drilling kicks out of the back of the end zone to keep him in check on special teams.
  • The Offense will again be without starters Corey Helms and Zack Bailey on the right side of the line. Donell Stanley looked good after shifting to RG, and Sadarius Hutcherson was impressive in his first major action at LG. If the Gamecocks can keep a surprisingly good A&M pass rush in check, Bentley should have success throwing the ball.
  • Depth in the secondary is improving with utility man Steven Montac returning to health. Keisean Nixon has also apparently been getting work at corner so that he can be able to get on the field faster.

If we had Deebo, Zack Bailey, and Bryson Allen-Williams available, I would have the Gamecocks edging out a victory here. With those guys not available, however, I have to think South Carolina stays winless against the Aggies. Prediciton: USC 28 - Texas A&M 31

You can see last year's game against the Aggies below.

USC 17 - Louisiana Tech 16: Thoughts on Win #3

A Dramatic Win that Shouldn't Have Been (in Multiple Ways)

This is a game that was strange in multiple ways. First, the Gamecocks out-gained the Bulldogs in both phases of the game, 438 yards to 361 yards, had 6 more 1st Downs, had better 3rd Down efficiency, but barely won the game. Second, the Gamecocks only had 51 seconds and 79 yards to go to the goal line with no timeouts, but still managed to win the game. Losing the turnover battle and missing two FGs explains the former, while amazing play from Jake Bentley (with with a lot of help from Bryan Edwards) explains the latter. Here's some thoughts on the game:

  • Louisiana Tech is the epitome of a lower division team whom playing against can be a lose-lose proposition for Power-5 teams. ESPN currently predicts the Bulldogs to win 7 of their final 8 games on their schedule and become C-USA champion. This is a team that is more than up to the task of giving a middle-of-the-pack Power-5 team all sorts of difficulties if that team doesn't execute extremely well. This was certainly the case last week.
  • The true-Freshman cornerback for Louisiana Tech, #21 Amik Robertson, was one of the best true-Freshman corners I can remember seeing. A lot of big name teams are going to regret passing on this kid in the next few years.
  • After letting the dust settle and looking more closely at the game, I found that the Offense didn't play as badly as I initially thought. Given that both teams were following a possession strategy in the game, the Gamecocks only ended up having 9 possessions. They scored on three of those possessions, missed two make-able FGs, turned the ball over twice, and punted twice. On Carolina's 2nd possession, they averaged 5.2 yards / play before a bad snap resulted in sack with a big loss, which then led to a punt. Miscommunication on a route resulted in an interception on the 3rd series of the game. On the first drive of the 2nd Half the Gamecocks got 10.3 yards / play before a missed block led to a Ty'Son Williams fumble. Overall for the game the Gamecocks averaged 6.5 yards / play, which would put them around 15th in the nation if done over an entire season. Not too shabby. Basically a few mistakes and a lack of execution in key situations led to the low scoring output, not any real deficiencies in play calling.
  • With Deebo gone for the season Jake Bentley spread the ball around a lot. A total of 10 different players caught passes in the game, with 3 of those being true-Freshmen.
  • The Defense played pretty well in this game, considering that we were down both Bryson Allen-Williams and Dante Sawyer, two guys that have been having strong seasons so far. They only gave up 16 points (only one TD), and held the Bulldogs to 2.9 yards / carry. That's a respectable showing against a decent offense.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings

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

Bryan Edwards

Edwards had his best ever game as a Gamecock, catching 6 passes for 122 yards. His 41-yard reception in the final seconds was an incredible play, as he leapt over a LA Tech defender to basically steal an interception from him and a put the Gamecocks in position for a game-winning FG.

Jake Bentley

Jake had a solid outing, completing 64.7% of his passing attempts for 295 yards, a TD, and an INT. He really shined on the last drive of the game, however. This kid has a knack for making big plays when they're needed most. His scramble for 24 yards on 3rd & 10 and his 41-yard pass to Edwards that immediately followed won the game for the Gamecocks.

JaMarcus King

After struggling in many of the games since his phenomenal performance against Tennessee last year, the old JaMarcus King showed up to grab an interception in the red zone late in the 3rd Quarter, which prevented LA Tech from putting the game away with a score.

OrTre Smith

OrTre finished off a 97-yard drive following King's interception with a 28-yard TD reception. He turned 19 less than two weeks before the game, but he's already a grown man out on the field. LA Tech defenders couldn't tolerate it. He now has 3 receptions for 2 TDs in his career.

Skai Moore

Skai Moore was all over the place, leading the team in Tackles with 12.

Ty'Son Williams

Had his best game yet as a Gamecock, rushing for 95 yards on 13 carries, including a great 35-yard run for a TD. He also had a bad fumble in the 2nd Quarter, but this was partly due to his lead blocker missing his block on the play.

Daniel Fennell

Filling in for an injured Bryson Allen-Williams, Fennell played a solid game and collected a sack. He also had a key pressure that forced the interception to JaMarcus King.

Sadarius Hutcherson

Sadarius played most of the game at Left Guard after Corey Helms went down with an injury in the first series and the O-line was suffled around. Played a very solid game in the first significant action of his career.

Parker White

White missed his first four attempts of the season, and his first two in the game against LA Tech. When he lined up for the game-winning kick, I was more concerned for the kid personally than I was for Gamecocks taking a loss. He likely would have never been able to live it down if he missed that kick. Kudos to him for having a short memory and making the play when it counted the most.

Watch the game again below.

Week 4: Louisiana Tech

Here's some thoughts on this week's game:

  • I expect the Gamecocks to come out looking fairly sluggish early Sunday morning. After the big letdown last week and the loss of the two best players on offense, I think the team will have trouble executing early.
  • Louisiana Tech will score some points on a Gamecock defense that may be somewhat banged-up. Bryson Allen-Williams and Dante Sawyer may not be able to go, which will limit the type of looks we'll be able to give J'Mar Smith. We also haven't shown that we can defend dual-threat QBs very well the past few years.
  • We could possibly see a breakout game from Randrecous Davis as he fills-in for Deebo Samuel. I also think Shi Smith can have a big game. The Gamecocks will have to spread the ball around more now that the biggest weapon on offense is missing.
  • The RPO resulted in us not rushing the ball much last week as Kentucky consistently put extra defenders in the box. Will we move away from that to some degree and just try to run it regardless of the look? It's possible. Louisiana Tech will likely put extra defenders in the box as well until we show that we have a receiver or receivers that can replace Deebo's production.
  • I get the feeling this is one of those games that a lesser opponent goes into halftime either being tied or with a lead, and the Gamecocks have to rally in the 2nd half to win.

Prediction: USC 35 - Louisiana Tech 28