South Carolina will always throw me in a state of flux. Yes, I have a degree from there. My wife’s family are multi-year season ticket holders. Yet she went to Clemson, and to cheer for the Gamecocks (Ed. note: Game Penises) is a mortal sin to Clemson folk. It is a near impossible situation to manage. At first, it was somewhat fun, as I was in the old upside-down cockroach in 2007 and I watched the GOAT Mackenzi Adams run nothing but read option on at the time the number six team in the country. I was slightly crazy then, wearing a Vanderbilt shirt in the South Carolina student section, and I left as the students came to blows with each other over losing after a highly emotional victory of an Andre Woodson led Kentucky team on the previous Thursday night. People said: “wow, you went to Vanderbilt? They’ve gotten a lot better.” The Dores would win the next year as well in impressive fashion, and I would constantly point out one of Spurrier’s famous quotes about his NFL failures: “There are no Vanderbilt’s in the NFL.” In hindsight, maybe my wife is saving me by not allowing me to support them.
Alas, that would be the last time we would beat the Gamecocks, even during the Franklin years (thanks to an absolutely egregious DPI no call with Stephon Gilmore covering Jordan Matthews). Still, South Carolina is not the same team is was under Spurrier, as he
quit left midseason 2015 and the program has floundered since. They hired the former hottest head coaching candidate who’s flame flickered after he couldn’t turn Florida into a winner, and they’ve failed to find consistency since.
That being said, the Gamecocks hired former UGA offensive coordinator and Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo this past year, and Bobo has brought Collin Hill with him from CSU. Hill, a Spartanburg, SC native, has struggled with ACL injuries throughout his career, but he has been impressive in limited performance. He has a good arm and good command, and his efforts have led the Gamecocks to a top 50 passing offense despite the fact that there’s only one person who is able to catch the ball (more on that in a minute). As Doresontheplain will point out, his QBR is only 53.4, which isn’t great. But in my view of his play, I was much less impressed by his receivers than I was with him.
The Gamecocks best player on offense is sophomore RB Kevin Harris. Harris has clearly separated himself from the pack in terms of carries, and he has produced by getting 4.4 ypc with 155 yards in the first two games, including 100 yards on 22 carries against Florida. I wouldn’t label him an incredible receiving RB, but he is quite serviceable and has to be accounted for there as well.
In watching the Gamecocks last weekend against Florida, I couldn’t help but notice that there were plenty of really nicely placed passes that were just flat out dropped. That being said, Shi Smith is a plenty good receiver with 225 yards receiving on 22 catches through two games. But that, quite frankly, is about it. Xavier Legette is second on the team in terms of yards. TE Nick Muse is another target. I should also mention sophomore RB Deshaun Fenwick, who gets his own share of touches but seems to have some good receiving ability as an additional wrinkle.
South Carolina’s offensive line is experienced, though they struggled last year in the sack department, ranking 69th nationally in sacks allowed. Thus far, they’ve allowed 8, good for 68th, so the improvement hasn’t necessarily been that visible, but Florida and Tennessee aren’t slouches as pass rushing defenses, so that could be part of it.
Will Muschamp is on the hot seat in Columbia, and his 0-2 start isn’t making that any cooler. If the Dores were to beat the Gamecocks for the first time in 11 years, it may be enough to push the school to make a change. I would say that the 13 point spread is about right, as I don’t believe this offense will match the ones Vanderbilt has previously faced. This is a winnable game and Derek Mason’s defense needs to bounce back from a lackluster performance against LSU last week.