After much deliberation and research I’ve decided on a College Football team to pour my heart and soul behind. Well maybe it’s not that serious but I’m at least going to root for them. I even reconsidered becoming a Michigan State Spartan fan, but after hearing that an MSU fan had the audacity to claim that Michigan had better potatoes than Idaho that door has closed for good. But for better or worse, in sickness and in health and for richer or poorer I’m attaching myself to the Gamecocks of South Carolina . . . at least for the confines of the college football season.
Why the South Carolina Gamecocks you ask? The simple answer revolves around one man: the Ol’ Ball Coach. I remember watching some of Spurrier’s Florida teams and really enjoying the style of play. One of the big reasons for this was the athletes that Spurrier recruited down in Florida, and he shows no sign of changing that habit in South Carolina.
The bigger answer is that South Carolina fit the majority of criteria that I was looking for in a good college football program. The main area they probably lacked was a winning tradition, but bringing in a coach like Spurrier can change a tradition overnight. Next, South Carolina is in an area where they are going to get some athletes, especially with Spurrier reviving those recruiting tracks down in Florida. This plays directly into playing an exciting style of football which is always good since I have the attention span of a goldfish. Another bonus is that South Carolina provides a decent vacation destination if I decide to take this show on the road. Columbia may not be a huge vacation town but Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach are only a couple hours down the road. The bandwagon effect is probably minimal with this pick since South Carolina is probably still a couple years away from contending for an SEC title, not that you would want to tell Spurrier that he isn’t going to win the east this year.
Now that I’ve put myself out there I should probably do my civic duty and give everyone a heads up on the Gamecocks season. As with any Spurrier led team we should probably start with the offense. Blake Mitchell returns at quarterback, and in the second year of the new offense looks to blossom. Mitchell showed promise last year with 2,370 yards and 17 touchdowns but his decision making was questionable at times. Mitchell is complemented with one of the best young wide receivers in Sidney Rice, who was not only All SEC first team as a freshman last year but garnered a place on the Freshman All American team. Rice led the Gamecocks with 70 receptions, 1,143 yards and 13 touchdowns. The 6 foot 3 inch, 200 pound receiver features deceiving speed and a route running ability more likely found in a senior than a freshman. The Gamecocks also return a freshman at running back, Mike Davis, who scratched out 666 yards last year. Either that’s a bad omen for SEC defenses or Davis is headed for a career ending run in with a golf cart in his near future. Either way I think the Gamecocks are OK in the running back department with the return of Cory Boyd. Boyd is returning from a one year suspension for an unspecified “team rules violation”, but it didn’t take Corey long to get back in the news. During the Gamecocks first game against Mississippi State Corey announced his presence with authority by calmly turning to the ESPN camera and stating “I’m back . . .like cooked crack.” With a statement like that I think the Gamecocks are going to be well taking care of.
As for the defense, they aren’t as highly touted as the offense but there is hope. The Gamecocks are losing their top 7 tacklers from last year but that may not be all bad. I managed to catch the game against Mississippi State, in between taking pots off the Champ, and the defense did look improved over the couple games I saw last year. Albeit that Mississippi State isn’t an offensive juggernaut but the Gamecock were quick to the ball and were sure tackling for the first game of the year. The corners may be one area of concern, especially with games against perennial powers like Georgia, Tennessee and Florida that will look to stretch the field against he Gamecocks. The defense isn’t going to lead any statistical categories but all they really have to do is hold opponents within reason and get the ball back for the offense to go to work. Hopefully the new starters on defense will be allowed to take a more aggressive approach than last year’s defense and look to create more turnovers.
That’s about all I’ve been able to put together so far about the Gamecocks, but this season could really go either way. After winning the opener against Mississippi State the Gamecocks will have a tough test against Georgia, but luckily that game is held in Columbia. Then the schedule eases up a little and we may see 50+ points in at least one of the match ups with Wofford or Florida Atlantic. The rest of the season is highlighted by Auburn and Tennessee making trips into Columbia with the only preseason top 25 teams the Gamecocks have to go on the road to face being Florida and then Clemson in the last game of the season. (If you read this earlier and are confused about the Florida screw up blame it on ESPN not being able to get a major division 1 college schedule correct) The Gamecocks will almost certainly improve on their 7-5 (5-3) record from last year, with an outside chance at 10 wins. The fact that the majority of the tough games happen in Columbia certainly helps, so one, or even two, upsets over a top 25 team are not out of this South Carolina team’s reach.