Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mike Leach Lands in the PAC-12 Conference

Per ESPN, former Texas Tech Head Football Coach, Mike Leach has agreed to become the next Head Football Coach at Washington State. Leach has been out of coaching since 2009. Yesterday WSU fired Paul Wulff after four seasons at the helm of the Pac-12 cellar dweller.

South Carolina Bowl Scuttlebutt

I want to congratulate Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecock football team for achieving a 10-win season (the second 10-win season ever in school history) and prolonging the agony of our Clemson brethren. As USC clinched its tenth win of the season, I began to play out the scenarios where South Carolina might welcome in the 2012 New Year. Ten wins is a milestone in the eyes of bowl committee executives who view on the field success right behind financial benefit for the city hosting the bowl game. Getting to the ten-win plateau is insurance that Carolina will not fall below the Cotton Bowl, IMHO. Here is the pecking order for the SEC in the bowl tie-ins:

1. BCS Championship
2. Sugar Bowl
3. Capital One Bowl
4. Cotton Bowl
5. Outback Bowl
6. Peach Bowl
7. Music City Bowl
8. Liberty Bowl
9. BBVA Compass Bowl

Now, once LSU and Alabama are chosen for the BCS Championship game, in a rematch of the November 5th tilt in Tuscaloosa won by LSU 9-6 in overtime, the next selection belongs to the Capital One Bowl played on January 2nd in Orlando, FL. Historically, the Capital One Bowl, formerly the Citrus Bowl, selects the highest BCS ranked SEC team not chosen for a BCS bowl. In this scenario, Arkansas (ranked 8th in BCS) would get the nod over USC & Georgia. But do not count out the Capital One Bowl and the Cotton Bowl working out an agreement so that the Cotton Bowl can pit Arkansas with a potential opponent like Oklahoma or Oklahoma State, which would draw huge crowds to Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, TX.

IMHO, if either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State is selected as the Big 12 representative in the Cotton Bowl then 100% guarantee the Razorbacks are headed to Dallas, TX. Remember Arkansas Alum Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is the head honcho in Dallas and presumably carries a lot of weight in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. If Jones can wrangle an advantage for his Razorbacks to play in the Cotton Bowl against a storied program like Oklahoma, then you better believe Arkansas will play in “Big D”. Also it is highly likely that Razorbacks fans would travel in greater numbers to Dallas versus Orlando.

So bottom line, if Oklahoma or Oklahoma State is chosen to play in the Cotton Bowl then bank on Arkansas being the opponent from the SEC. If something quirky happens and Kansas State is selected as the Big 12’s representative then USC’s chances of going to the Lone Star state increase.

With the scenario I just laid out, South Carolina would be selected ahead of Arkansas to represent the SEC in the Capital One Bowl. IMHO, the Gamecocks are the leader in the clubhouse to end up in Orlando, FL. South Carolina has never played in the Capital One Bowl as a member of the SEC. USC did play in the Tangerine Bowl back in 1975, which was played in Orlando. The Capital One Bowl has the largest payout ($4.25 million/team) of any non-BCS bowl. The opponent would be a team from the Big 10, more than likely the loser (Wisconsin or Michigan State) of the inaugural Big 10 Championship Game. If Wisconsin beats Michigan State, then I would expect USC’s opponent to possibly be Nebraska or Michigan State. The Spartans played last year in the Capital One Bowl against Alabama and were clobbered (49-7). If Michigan State defeats Wisconsin, then USC’s opponent in the Capital One Bowl would be the Wisconsin Badgers.

IMHO, there is no way USC goes back to the Outback Bowl for the fourth time in the last eleven years. The last time USC ventured to Tampa (January 1, 2009) the outcome was horrendous for USC both on the field (31-10 loss to Iowa) and in the stands, with little USC representation at Raymond-James Stadium. So IMHO, Georgia will be selected for this bowl game unless they upset LSU in the SEC Championship. Both USC and Outback Bowl officials feel the 2009 experience still leaves a bad taste in the mouths on both sides. Georgia has not been to the Outback Bowl since 2004 and UGA Quarterback Aaron Murray hails from Plant HS, which is located in Tampa.

South Carolina Bowl Percentages:
Capital One Bowl: 60%
Cotton Bowl: 35%
Outback Bowl: 5%

I expect South Carolina to be playing in Orlando, FL in the Capital One Bowl come January 2012. This could be very beneficial to USC in recruiting the I-4 corridor of central Florida (Tampa/St.Petersburg, Orlando and the Space Coast area of eastern Florida). Any exposure in the state of Florida for the Gamecocks will be valuable in establishing recruiting relationships with rising 2013 & 2014 prospects. All four major BCS-level Florida schools (Florida, FSU, Miami and South Florida) suffered losing or less-than-stellar seasons. Publicity in the state of Texas will increase for USC now that Texas A&M has joined the SEC, but the Gamecocks can get a head start on exposing Texas football recruits to the Gamecocks brand should we attend the Cotton Bowl. Plus it never hurts to have a coach like Steve Spurrier, quote machine, playing up the Gamecocks in the Dallas media leading up to the Cotton Bowl. My preference would be the Cotton Bowl, but I would be thrilled for the Capital One Bowl if USC is chosen.

My next blog will be Thursday when I’ll reveal my USC MVPs and update on USC football recruiting.

Go Gamecocks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

South Carolina/Clemson Review

Words cannot describe the feelings I had Saturday night around eleven o’clock but here are a few:

1. Three-peat
2. Back-to-Back-to-Back
3. State Champs
4. 97-39 (last three years)
5. “$34.13” A-She-She Championship tickets for sale!

This game illustrates the difference between the Southeastern Conference versus the A-She-She Conference. USC was clearly the more physical team along the line of scrimmage (LOS) both offense and defense. USC controlled both sides of the ball and absolutely dominated Clemson in the trenches. South Carolina took it on the chin in the SEC wars with marginal success (2000 & 2001) but most often wound up on the losing side of the scoreboard, because USC lacked depth & toughness in the trenches. Saturday night the Gamecocks d-line lived on the other side of the LOS and manhandled an inferior Clemson o-line. USC’s o-line punched Clemson in the mouth continuously and consistently opened running lanes for Shaw, Miles & Wilds. The reversal of fortunes in this series did a complete 180-degree turn on November 28, 2009, when Steve Spurrier decided he was going to run the football right at the Clemson Tigers. Let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly from Saturday night’s Palmetto state showdown.

The Good:
Steve Spurrier won his 54th game as Head Football Coach at the University of South Carolina. Spurrier is now 54-35 in less than seven full seasons at South Carolina. That is a (.607%) winning percentage. Spurrier is second all-time on USC’s Career Wins List for USC football coaches, trailing only Rex Enright (64 all-time wins).

Steve Spurrier improves to 4-3 overall record against Clemson.

South Carolina has won back-to-back-to-back games versus Clemson for the second time in school history. The landmark accomplishment was first achieved back in 1968, ’69 & ’70.

The 14-member senior class earned more victories (33) than any other senior group in South Carolina football history. The group has at least one more chance to set the bar even higher with a win in the bowl game.

Sixth-year seniors LB Rodney Paulk and OL Terrence Campbell are 4-2 versus Clemson in their USC careers. Paulk and Campbell are members of the 2006 USC Signing Day class.

Regular season recipe for success as the Gamecocks have won 13 of their last 15 games.

Protect this house has become the mantra for the USC football team inside the cockpit. South Carolina is 20-3 (87%) over the last 23 games at Williams-Brice.

Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffrey has now caught a pass in 35 straight games. The Calhoun County native is eight games shy of tying the school leader, Kenny McKinley, at 43.

Alshon Jeffrey needs one more touchdown reception (22) to tie Sidney Rice’s all-time TD receptions record (23) at USC.

The USC Rushing attack eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the eighth time this season (8-0 record). Carolina rushed for greater than 200 yards versus ECU, UGA, Navy, UK, UT, UF, The Citadel and Clemson. The Gamecocks now rank 27th in Rushing Offense (198 rushing yards/game), after their 210-yard performance against the Tigers. USC improves to 18-0 under Steve Spurrier when USC runs for 200-plus yards.

Redshirt junior Kenny Miles probable last performance in a Gamecocks uniform will leave a lasting impression on USC fans. The Georgia native kept the chains moving, gaining tough yards between the tackles.

WR Bruce Ellington hauling in his first touchdown reception of the season on a beautiful 49-yard pass from Shaw.

The Connor Shaw Show was double-trouble for the Tigers defense. The sophomore completed 14-20 passes (70%), 210 yards and three touchdown passes. Shaw also was the Gamecocks leading rusher with 19 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. Shaw accounted for all four USC touchdowns Saturday night.

A half dozen touchdown passes for Connor Shaw in the last two games gives the USC quarterback back-to-back weeks of three-touchdown pass performances.

Shaw’s 107 yards rushing marked a career high and the first time a USC quarterback had gone over the 100-yard mark since 09/14/2002 when Corey Jenkins gained 102 yards rushing versus UGA, per John Whittle, TheBigSpur.

The Gamecocks defense overwhelmed the high-octane Clemson offense only yielding 153 total yards (70 rushing yards, 83 passing yards). Clemson was averaging better than 450 yards of total offense.

Ellis Johnson’s stop troops held a fourth opponent’s offense to under 200 total yards this season. USC’s defense previously held Vanderbilt, Kentucky & Tennessee to less than 200 yards of offense. South Carolina’s defense held two SEC opponents (Kentucky & Vanderbilt) to less than 100 yards.

The USC d-line harassed and pressured Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd consistently all night as the Gamecocks sacked Boyd five times and recorded eight tackles-for-loss.

USC’s outstanding third-down conversion percentage defense (6/17; 35%) against one of the best third-down conversion offensive teams.

One 20-plus yard play USC’s defense surrendered to Clemson’s offense.

In the last three South Carolina/Clemson contests (2009, 2010 & 2011), here are three tell-tale stats why the pendulum has swung in the Gamecocks favor:

1. Average Time of Possession
a. USC --- 36:00
b. Clemson --- 24:00
2. Average Rushing Yards
a. USC --- 176 rushing yards/game; (two) 50-plus rushing attempts (2009 & 2011)
b. Clemson --- 59.6 rushing yards/game
3. Total Turnovers
a. USC --- two
b. Clemson --- six
4. Total Offensive Touchdowns
a. USC --- 10 offensive touchdowns
b. Clemson --- 3 offensive touchdowns

The Bad:
The empty East Upper Deck sections at the cockpit Saturday night. What is up?

The Ugly:
USC’s special teams once again tried to aid the opponent Saturday night. South Carolina was flagged for interference negating a Clemson fumble, which setup a 61-yard Tigers touchdown drive. Then Gamecocks punter Joey-Scribner Howard mishandled a low snap that Clemson recovered and later converted into a 32-yard field goal to tie the score at 10-10.

Clemson’s blocked punt in the second quarter was the first surrendered by USC since the 2008 Clemson game, per John Whittle, TheBigSpur.

My next blog will be Thursday afternoon when I give an update on the USC bowl scuttlebutt and the SEC Power Index.

Go Gamecocks!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Top 10 College Football Games – Week 13 Edition

By now everyone has expanded one jeans size and opened a bottle of TUMS at least once post-Thanksgiving Day. Rivalry week kicked off Thursday night with Texas beating Texas A&M in the Lone Star state battle, LSU beat Arkansas yesterday for the Iron Boot trophy, and last night West Virginia edged Pittsburgh in the Back Yard Brawl. Today brings a slew of interstate & intrastate rivalries across the nation. So let’s see which games I recommend you watch, as you have another turkey sandwich with a large slice of pumpkin pie paired with a heaping tablespoon of whipped cream!

#17 Clemson @ #12 South Carolina: The 103rd consecutive game in this longstanding Palmetto state rivalry is finally displayed in primetime (ESPN/7:45 p.m.) for the entire country to view. The last time these two teams met in the cockpit as ranked teams was 1987 (USC won 20-7). South Carolina’s defense is ranked 5th in Total Defense. Clemson’s offense is predicated on big plays, (58) 20-plus yard plays this season. The Gamecocks are 17-0 under Steve Spurrier when USC runs for 200 yards or more.
Prediction: South Carolina goes back-to-back-to-back, Gamecocks 31-20.

#19 Penn State @ #16 Wisconsin: The winner of this game clinches The Leaders Division and advances to play Michigan State in the inaugural Big Ten Championship game. Both teams are 9-2 and Penn State (6-1) has a one-game lead on Wisconsin (5-2) within conference play. The Badgers’ offense averages 45ppg while the Nittany Lions’ defense is quite stingy allowing only 13 ppg.
Prediction: Wisconsin’s home turf, Camp Randall Stadium, is daunting for opponents, Wisconsin 38-20.

#5 Virginia Tech @ Virginia: The Hokies (gobble, gobble) have won 11 of the last 12 games in the battle for the Old Dominion state championship. The winner of this game claims the Coastal Division crown and advances to play Clemson in the A-She-She Championship. UVA has not won a divisional title since Bill Clinton (1995) occupied the Oval Office.
Prediction: The winner treks down I-85 to Charlotte, Hokies gobble up another Coastal crown 31-23.

#13 Georgia @ #23 Georgia Tech: UGA has won nine games in a row this season and wrapped up the SEC East Division title last week. Mark Richt is 9-1 versus his in-state rivals from the ATL. Georgia has won five in a row in the ATL versus the Yellow Jackets. Tech has lost three of its last five games.
Prediction: The Bulldogs make it six in a row in the ATL over Tech, UGA 31-17.

#22 Notre Dame @ #6 Stanford: These two interstate rivals face off in primetime on the West Coast tonight. With a win, Stanford will probably clinch a BCS bowl at-large bid and, with a strong game, Stanford QB, Andrew Luck, can regain some Heisman hope in a national telecast against the Irish.
Prediction: Who needs “luck” when you already have it? Stanford chops down Notre Dame 38-27.

#2 Alabama @ Auburn: Last year the Iron Bowl was probably the best game of the season, as Auburn battled back from a 24-0 deficit. Alabama cannot slip up against the Tigers on the road this year in order to maintain the Tide’s BCS championship aspirations.
Prediction: In a battle of the last two national champions, BAMA rolls 41-17.

Ohio State @ #15 Michigan: This game is taking a back seat to the expected announcement that former Florida Gators football coach Urban Meyer will be named the new Head Football Coach at Ohio State early next week. The Wolverines are 9-2 under first year man Brady Hoke, while the Buckeyes are mired in a mediocre season post-Jim Tressel & Terrelle Pryor eras.
Prediction: The Big House will enjoy the anticipated Buckeyes shellacking today, Maize & Blue 37-16.

Florida State @ Florida: How far have these two teams fallen in the landscape of college football? In years past, this game would be the big game of the day alongside the Iron Bowl (Alabama vs. Auburn). UF became bowl eligible last week beating FCS opponent Furman, while FSU dropped a heartbreaker to UVA, 14-13.
Prediction: The Sunshine state rivalry gets downgraded this year as both teams are mediocre, FSU 30-20.

UCLA @ USC-W: The Southern Cal Trojans are the best team in the Pac-12 South division but are ineligible (Reggie Bush NCAA sanctions) for the Pac-12 title game. UCLA clinched the Pac-12 South division title yesterday by default when Utah lost to Colorado. The Trojans have won 11 of the last 12 versus the Bruins.
Prediction: USC-W is coming off an emotional victory at Oregon last weekend, Trojans win 34-17.

Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest: Vanderbilt suffered a crushing defeat last weekend to in-state rival Tennessee. The Commodores need one more victory (5-6) to become bowl eligible under first-year Head Coach James Franklin. The Demon Deacons are already bowl eligible and want to stamp a successful season with a win over its brainiac rival from the SEC.
Prediction: Don’t bet against Wake Forest and Coach Jim Grobe at home, Demon Deacons sink Commodores bowl hopes 24-14.

My next blog will be Monday afternoon when SPURspective will review the South Carolina/Clemson game.

Go Gamecocks!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Five Keys to South Carolina Victory Over Clemson

There is a chance that history can be re-written on Saturday night if South Carolina can defeat its in-state rival, Clemson Tigers. The Gamecocks have a chance for a ten-win season (1984), back-to-back-to-back victories against the Tigers (’68, ’69 & ’70) and win a night game versus Clemson in Williams-Brice Stadium since the Reagan administration (1987). Both teams enter Saturday’s contest with identical records of 9-2, both teams are ranked in the Top 25 and for the second time (1988 both schools were 8-2) in the series history, both schools will enter the match-up with eight wins or more. When Saturday arrives, it will have been 1,092 days since USC last lost to Clemson in football (2008) and 728 days since USC began its two-game win streak against our most-hated rivals in the Northwest corner of Pickens County, SC. The magnitude of a win over Clemson would have such a positive impact on the Spurrier regime heading into year number eight in regards to in-state recruiting (2013), double-digit wins, an above .500 winning percentage against Clemson and most likely a destination to “Big D” in early January 2012! So enough history lessons for now, let’s take a look at the five key elements that will determine a USC victory on Saturday night.

Zone Read Option has been the bread and butter play for Carolina since the injection of Connor Shaw into the quarterback position. Shaw is the leading rushing quarterback in the SEC with nearly 400 total yards rushing. Freshman Brandon Wilds has eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark three times in four starts since Lattimore was injured in the Mississippi State game. Clemson’s Achilles heel the last couple of years is stopping mobile quarterbacks like Shaw, and the Tigers showed vulnerability when facing a running quarterback in a 31-17 loss at Georgia Tech earlier this season. USC has run the Zone Read Option play out of dozens of different formations and Shaw’s speed and decision-making in executing the Zone Read Option has ignited USC’s rushing attack since a mini two-game (Vanderbilt & Auburn) slump of rushing for less than 100 yards. Since Shaw took over the reins at quarterback, the Gamecocks ground game has churned out five 200-yard-plus rushing performances. In three home starts (UK, UF & The Citadel) this season with Shaw at quarterback, the Gamecocks ground game is averaging 253 yards rushing. Remember the Gamecocks are 17-0 under Steve Spurrier when rushing the football for 200 yards or more.

USC must limit Clemson’s big play strike capability for the Gamecocks to have a chance. Clemson has one of the most prolific and hectically deceptive offenses in college football. The Tigers rank inside the top 25 offensive categories in total yards (465) and points/game (35). The most daunting challenge for USC’s defense is the number of plays (58) 20-plus yards that the Tigers have amassed on the season. Clemson exploits teams that do not play assignment football with explosive plays utilizing fast, quick playmakers in space. The Tigers offense is up tempo and attempts to wear down a defense by running a lot of offensive plays. If given time to throw in the pocket, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will carve up the USC defense. South Carolina must limit Clemson’s big play aptitude and force the Tigers to sustain long drives in order to score, which then opens more windows for mistakes (11 turnovers last three games). The Gamecocks have allowed 28 plays of 20-plus yards, which ranks fifth in the FBS, per Darryl Slater of the Charleston Post & Courier.

South Carolina’s red zone defense must continue a trend that started improving after the first three games of the season. Against ECU, UGA and Navy, the USC defense yielded nine touchdowns (75%) in 12 red zone opportunities for its opponents. Since the Auburn game, the Gamecocks red zone defense has stiffened and only surrendered nine touchdowns (38%) in 24 red zone chances for its opponents, per Darryl Slater of the Charleston Post & Courier. USC’s goal is to not allow Clemson to score more than two touchdowns if Carolina stands a better than average chance of beating Clemson.

The Gamecocks Special Teams must be exceptional if USC is to defeat Clemson. Clemson Kickoff Return specialist Sammy Watkins is dynamite and a game changer returning kicks for the Tigers. USC has regressed all season long trying to cover kick-offs; even against The Citadel last week, Coach Spurrier bemoaned the fact that, twice, Bulldog return men netted 30-plus yard returns. Three weeks ago against Arkansas, South Carolina gave up a 98-yard kick-off return after taking an early 7-3 lead. The Gamecocks did a nice job of containing Florida’s return specialists two weeks ago and must use the same blueprint in order to negate Clemson’s advantage on kickoff and punt returns. The pooch kick or squib kick must be executed properly in order to give the USC tacklers a chance to get downfield, get off blocks, maintain proper lane-discipline (when covering kicks or punts each defender is assigned a specific lane responsibility) and make the tackle.

The USC d-line must apply pressure to Tajh Boyd with a four-man rush. If you watched the last two Clemson games (Wake Forest and NC State) then you saw the blueprint to beat the Tigers. Rush four men or fewer and drop all other defenders into pass coverage. The logic seems to prove that Boyd is unable to make smart decisions with the football while under duress from a pass rush and with smaller throwing windows. The proof is in the pudding the last 12 quarters for Clemson: 11 turnovers and seven sacks (six sacks last week). If Ingram, Taylor, Robertson, Quarles and Clowney can generate a consistent pass rush throughout the night and disrupt the timing between the Clemson quarterback and WRs then I like USC’s chances to win. IMHO, the Tigers will scheme similar plays to what Arkansas did to avoid the Carolina pass rush and that is to roll the quarterback out of the pocket and buy extra seconds to find open receivers. This plan can only work if the o-line is mobile and can sustain its blocks. That’s a big question with Clemson’s o-line injury situation at both tackle positions (Price & Walker). The Carolina front four are the most pivotal players in this game. If the d-line gets to Boyd with a four-man rush, it will be a long night for Clemson. If USC‘s d-line cannot generate a pass rush and Ellis Johnson is forced to blitz then I like Clemson’s chances to win.

SPURspective’s Prediction: USC is a top five defense. Clemson is a top 20 offense. Clemson has won five straight night games in Columbia. USC last won at night against Clemson in the cockpit back in 1987. South Carolina wins 31-20.

My next blog will be Monday afternoon when I review the South Carolina/Clemson game.

Go Gamecocks!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

USC/Clemson: Three Pivotal Personnel Match-Ups

Clemson and South Carolina, the second-longest running rivalry (103rd straight game) in college football, will kick-off at 7:45 p.m. on ESPN Saturday night in primetime. BTW, the longest running uninterrupted college football rivalry is Wisconsin/Minnesota (105 straight games) better known as the “Battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe”. Rivalry games bring out special performances from individuals that will live in the laurels of their universities’ history forever. There will be many one-on-one battles that will define the winner of this game throughout the four quarters. Here are three individual battles that will have a profound impact on the outcome of this intense in-state contest.

Phillip Price (Clemson Left Tackle) versus Melvin Ingram or Jadeveon Clowney (USC Def. End)
A quarterback’s blindside is a very integral component of any football team’s success throwing the football. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd found out last week how valuable a Left Tackle’s absence can impact a quarterback’s ability to stand in the pocket and deliver the football to his receivers. Senior Phillip Price sat out the N.C. State debacle with a sprained MCL injury to his knee suffered in the Wake Forest game. Without the stability of the former walk-on, Price, Clemson’s o-line surrendered six sacks against the Wolfpack. In the previous two games, Georgia Tech & Wake Forest, Clemson’s o-line yielded only one sack. Also Tajh Boyd’s accuracy has declined since the Tigers demolished UNC back on October 22nd. Up until the Georgia Tech game, October 29th, Boyd had thrown four interceptions in eight games. In his last three games, the sophomore quarterback has thrown six interceptions and that number could be significantly higher had opponents not dropped easy would-be-interceptions. This statistic signifies that opposing teams are getting pressure on Boyd when he drops back to pass. USC’s d-line excels in harassing the opposing quarterback this season. The defensive end combination of Ingram & Clowney will play a vital role in impeding the Clemson passing game Saturday night. Against an injured Phillip Price, USC’s pass rushing duo of Ingram & Clowney off the right side of the line of scrimmage should wreak some havoc against a limited, less-mobile Clemson left tackle. Ingram and Clowney rank one & two for Sack Leaders this season for South Carolina. It is imperative that Clowney and Ingram disrupt Boyd’s timing by forcing the Tigers quarterback out of the pocket and making it uncomfortable for Boyd to find open receivers.

Dwayne Allen (Clemson Tight End) versus Antonio Allen (USC Spur)
My second most pivotal battle will involve two Allen(s): Clemson’s Tight End Dwayne Allen & USC’s Spur Antonio Allen. In the first eight games, Allen compiled 33 receptions (four receptions/game), 432 receiving yards (54 yards receiving/game) and five touchdowns. Over the last three games, the junior tight end’s production has dropped dramatically with only 11 receptions (3.6 receptions/game), 108 receiving yards (36 receiving yards/game) and zero touchdowns. Last week against NC State, Allen only recorded three receptions for 18 yards. One of those receptions covered 16 yards, so his other two catches netted Allen a total of two yards! USC’s Antonio Allen has been rock solid at the Spur position during his senior campaign. The Ocala, FL native leads the team in tackles with 74 while recording three interceptions. The USC Pass defense suffered tremendously in the loss at Arkansas when Antonio Allen sat out the game with a neck injury. His replacement, Damario Jeffery, was exposed for multiple touchdown receptions by Razorbacks’ receivers. Antonio Allen will need to be at his best Saturday night because the depth behind him is young, inexperienced (redshirt freshman Sharrod Golightly) or injured (Damario Jeffery). Clemson’s tight end Dwayne Allen is Boyd’s security blanket, and if USC’s Antonio Allen can negate the big tight end’s role on Saturday night then USC’s chances for victory increase exponentially.

Sammy Watkins (Clemson Wide Receiver) versus Stephon Gilmore (USC Cornerback)
Clemson freshman wide receiver has exploded onto the college football scene this year. The Florida native has compiled 69 receptions (6.9 receptions/game), 1,040 yards (104 yards/game) and ten touchdowns. Watkins is blazing fast and a very physical wide receiver. Watkins injured his shoulder against Wake Forest and did not participate in the NC State game. Without Watkins, the Clemson wide receiving corps is very pedestrian. Watkins will impact the passing game for Clemson because opposing teams will have to respect his speed to stretch the field deep. In the last two games, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest, Watkins had 15 receptions, 221 receiving yards and one touchdown. NC State was able to zero in on Tajh Boyd because the Wolfpack did not respect the other elements of the Clemson passing game without Watkins. Watkins will make a difference in the USC game if his shoulder holds up. USC’s Stephon Gilmore is a fast, physical cornerback. Gilmore likes to play man-to-man and “body up” his wide receiver opponent. The key for Gilmore to win more one-on-one match-ups is to disrupt Watkins at the LOS (line of scrimmage) and force Watkins out of his timing running his route. This factor will aid the USC d-line in hopefully getting to Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, as Watkins is probably the pre-snap passing option for Boyd. Gilmore cannot allow Watkins to get off the LOS without jamming the freshman wide receiver. If Watkins is allowed to run free from the LOS, then USC’s secondary is in for a long night and Boyd & Watkins will play pitch & catch all night long. Gilmore has recorded 41 tackles, three interceptions and seven pass break-ups on the season. IMHO, the junior from Rock Hill, SC will see several opportunities to increase those statistics on Saturday night.

Clemson is a pass first, run second offensive team. If South Carolina can control the Tigers passing game then USC wins a double digit game. The three elements I just previewed will influence the outcome of Saturday night’s game tremendously.

My next blog will be Friday when I reveal my five keys to a USC victory.

Go Gamecocks!

Urban Meyer, Ohio State Reportedly Agree on Deal

Per FOXSports, Former University of Florida Head Football Coach Urban Meyer has agreed in principle to a seven-year, $40 million deal to become the new coach of Ohio State, according to a WKMG-TV report Tuesday night, which cited sources.

The report said Meyer, 47, would be introduced in the coming days.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Former USC Commitment Possibly Headed to the N.C. Triad?

Former 2011 Gamecocks signee Quincy McKinney reportedly took an official visit to Raleigh, NC this past weekend, per Phil Kornblut. Speculation is that McKinney might be calling the “919” his new home for the next four to five years. McKinney, an offensive lineman, was placed at Fork Union Prep in Virginia by South Carolina after the Georgia native failed to qualify academically to enroll at South Carolina this past August. It is reported that the USC football staff informed McKinney several weeks ago that the former Carvers High School product would not be a member of the 2012 Gamecocks recruiting class.

According to Kornblut, McKinney took the visit to NC State this past weekend and the prep school prospect will also take visits to Rutgers and Mississippi State in December. Mississippi State was a runner-up to USC, when McKinney committed to South Carolina in August of 2010.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review USC/The Citadel & Preview USC/Clemson Match-Up

Finally, the rivalry week every University of South Carolina Gamecocks fan anticipates all year long. It only happens once every 52 weeks, and this year’s annual contest seems more intensified because of the success both teams have enjoyed this season and the primetime national television exposure (ESPN). But before I jump into the South Carolina/Clemson game, let’s take a look back at USC’s outcome versus FCS opponent The Citadel. Carolina won by three touchdowns and pretty much went up & down the field the entire game with little resistance from The Citadel defense. One alarming theme from this past Saturday’s game was the M.A.S.H. unit over on the South Carolina sidelines, especially regarding defensive personnel. I was pleased with the balance demonstrated by the USC offense as the Gamecocks rolled up almost 475 yards of total offense. Connor Shaw improves to 6-1 as a Starter this season and he continues to exhibit the evolution of his development as a starting quarterback in the SEC Conference. Let’s take a look at the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good:
Steve Spurrier won his 53rd game as Head Football Coach at the University of South Carolina. SOS is now 53-35 in less than seven full seasons at South Carolina. That is a 60% winning percentage. Spurrier is second all-time on USC’s Career Wins List for USC football coaches, trailing only Rex Enright (64 all-time wins).

Steve Spurrier improves to a perfect 44-0 all-time against schools outside of BCS automatic qualifier conferences, including an 18-0 mark since coming to South Carolina.

South Carolina has achieved back-to-back nine-win seasons for the first time ever in school history. The landmark accomplishment is only the fourth nine-win season in USC history.

Regular season recipe for success as the Gamecocks have won 12 of their last 14 games.

Protect this house has become the mantra for the USC football team inside the cockpit. South Carolina is 19-3 (86%) over the last 22 games at Williams-Brice.

The Gamecocks finally grabbed an early lead against an opponent that ended 13 straight games of facing an early deficit.

Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffrey has now caught a pass in 34 straight games. The Calhoun County native is nine games shy of tying the school leader, Kenny McKinley, at 43.

Alshon Jeffrey needs two more touchdown receptions to tie Sidney Rice’s all-time TD receptions record (23) at USC, after the junior recorded his first touchdown reception since his game-winning catch at Mississippi State.

The USC Rushing attack eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the seventh time this season. Carolina rushed for greater than 200 yards versus ECU, UGA, Navy, UK, UT, UF and The Citadel. The Gamecocks rank 29th in Rushing Offense (less than 197 rushing yards/game), after its output against the Bulldogs and improved to 17-0 under Steve Spurrier when USC runs for 200-plus yards.

The 256 yards rushing is the second-best rushing output since the Gamecocks grinded out 288 yards on the ground against Kentucky, per The State newspaper.

Freshman Brandon Wilds eclipsed the century-mark for the third time in four starts, rushing the football for 109 yards on 20 rush attempts, with two touchdowns. Wilds’ first multiple touchdown performance, per The State newspaper.

Connor Shaw’s accuracy was almost impeccable minus a first quarter interception. The sophomore completed 16-18 passes (89%), 217 yards and three touchdown passes with one INT. The completion percentage (89%) was Shaw’s best since his 20-28 performance (71%) versus Mississippi State.

Run Connor Run, as the Flowery Branch, GA native raced 60 yards, splitting two Bulldogs’ defenders, for a touchdown in the second quarter. Shaw gained 90 yards on 11 carries. Shaw is now the SEC’s leading rusher among quarterbacks.

DE Melvin Ingram is averaging 43.5 yards rushing on two carries for 87 yards and one touchdown this season. Ingram had a 19-yard run on fake punt versus The Citadel.

USC did not attempt a single Punt in the entire game. Carolina lined up to punt in the fourth quarter but executed a perfect fake punt play that would lead to Alshon Jeffrey’s TD reception.

Third-down conversion rate for USC was 6-9 (66%). Carolina was perfect on fourth down conversions (3-3).

The Bad:
The USC rush defense surrendered 241 rushing yards to The Citadel. The Bulldogs ran the football 54 times averaging almost 4.5 yards per carry.

Shaw has thrown an interception in five straight games, per The State. If you go back to the ECU game, Shaw has at least one turnover in six of his seven starts this season.

Four Citadel fumbles that the USC defense did not recover. When defenses are flying to the football, those mistakes turn into fumble recoveries for the Gamecocks instead of second chances for the opponent!

The USC special teams, especially the Kickoff coverage unit, allowed multiple 30-yard returns by The Citadel Kickoff Return squad.

The Ugly:
The M.A.SH. Unit that began piling up on Saturday afternoon along the Gamecocks’ sideline. Seven USC players were injured during Saturday’s contest. Six defensive players (DE Jadeveon Clowney, Safety DeVonte Holloman, LB Quinn Smith, LB Qua Gilchrist, LB Reginald Bowens and Spur DaMario Jeffery) and one offensive player, WR Bruce Ellington, suffered injuries. Currently, according to Ellis Johnson, Spur Damario Jeffrey sustained the most serious injury, high ankle sprain, and most likely would miss the Clemson game. Status of the other injured players is yet to be determined.

Clemson Preview:
A top 20 match-up features two teams that sit at 9-2 with one monumental game yet to be played come Saturday night. One of these schools will attain the 10-win plateau. For USC, it has only enjoyed a 10-win season once (1984). The Gamecocks currently enjoy a modest two-game winning streak against the Clemson Tigers. Only once in school history has USC won three straight games (’68, ’69 & ’70) versus its instate rival. The dynamics in this game basically boil down to two key elements. First, can South Carolina’s front four, d-line, get consistent pressure on Tajh Boyd to force the Clemson quarterback into mistakes? IMHO, the past three Clemson games, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest & N.C. State, have shown multiple blueprints on how to slow down the Tigers offense. Secondly, will the Gamecocks eclipse 200 rushing yards, which means Carolina’s offense is on the field controlling the time of possession, while Clemson’s explosive offense is over on the sideline. I will have more on these keys and others on Friday, when I reveal my top five keys to victory. The drama leading up to this game will be enormous, as both team’s strengths, CU passing game vs. USC pass defense & USC rush offense vs. CU rush defense, are an advantage against the other team’s weakness.

My next blog will be Wednesday when I look at three key personnel match-ups of the Clemson/Carolina contest.

Go Gamecocks!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Milestone Feat in Back-to-Back Seasons

For the first time in its 118th season of college football, the Gamecocks scored a signature achievement in securing back-to-back nine win seasons for the first time in the history of South Carolina football. The victory was a landmark moment for the University of South Carolina pigskin program that has been mired in mediocrity for more than a century. It is only the fourth time in USC history that the Gamecocks have registered a nine win victory total.

Congratulations Gamecocks!

Top Ten College Football Games for Week Twelve

Well, we’re coming down the home stretch and another unbeaten team, Oklahoma State, fell victim on the road. Last night, the 2nd ranked OSU Cowboys lost in double overtime, 37-31, to Iowa State. Oklahoma State blew a 24-7 third quarter lead and quite possibly a chance to play in the BCS National Championship game. There are now two unbeaten teams in FBS, LSU & Houston. LSU plays at Ole Miss, while Houston entertains intrastate rival SMU at home. This week’s slate of games is “ho-hum”, so you might want to rake leaves or clean out the gutters today! Since the Gamecocks are playing their annual in-state FCS program, the Gamecocks do not make my list of contests, but let’s see which games do make my list of top 10 games.

#18 Southern Cal @ #4 Oregon: The “Quack Attack” has blistered their Pac – 12 brethren from the city of Angels over the last two years by scoring 100 points combined against USC-W. Last week, the Ducks pounded Stanford and will clinch the Pac – 12 North Division by beating its rivals to the south. The fightin’ Phil Knights (Nike) have won 21 straight home games at Autzen Stadium while also winning 19 straight league contests.
Prediction: Make it 22 straight at raucous, rowdy Autzen Stadium, quack, quack, 48-35.

#16 Nebraska @ #18 Michigan: The Cornhuskers make their first visit to the Big House since the JFK administration. If you like running quarterbacks (NU’s Taylor Martinez & UM’s Dernard Robinson) then tune into this match-up. Both of these teams are still viable options to win the Big 10’s Legends Division title with Nebraska in a better position than the Wolverines.
Prediction: The Maize & Blue are better post-Rich Rod era, but children of the corn in a squeaker, 27-23.

#5 Oklahoma @ #22 Baylor: Four weeks ago, Oklahoma’s aspirations for the BCS title game went up in smoke after a devastating home loss to Texas Tech. Well in less than one week, three undefeated teams (Stanford, Boise State & Oklahoma State) have fallen and now give the Sooners a real chance to play their way back into the BCS title picture. It’s always fun to watch Baylor quarterback, Robert Griffin III, RG III.
Prediction: Boomer Sooner is 20-0 all-time versus Baylor, make it 21-0 and Sooners roll 44-34.

#10 Boise State @ San Diego State: The BSU Broncos are coming off an upsetting loss at home to TCU last week, 36-35, on a missed late field goal. This is the first-ever meeting between these two schools. Will there be a hangover with the Broncos now that their BCS title hopes are gone? The Aztecs can score and will make this game interesting.
Prediction: Sunny Southern California will perk up the Broncos, BSU 42-30.

#13 Kansas State @ Texas: After back-to-back losses to Oklahoma & Oklahoma State, the KSU Wildcats are glad to be playing a non-Sooner state university. Now the Wildcats set their sights on Big 12 big brother, Texas. KSU beat UT last year. The Longhorns lost at home to Missouri last week.
Prediction: Kansas State is enjoying a dream season & the dream continues in Austin, TX, KSU 45-27.

Mississippi State vs. #6 Arkansas (Little Rock, AR): The Hogs cannot be looking ahead to next week’s potential top five BCS match-up against LSU. Arkansas has won 14 of the 16 previous contests against MSU. Arkansas has won six games in a row since it lost to Alabama.
Prediction: The Bulldogs don’t have much “bite” this year, Arkansas 48-13.

Vanderbilt @ Tennessee: The battle for supremacy in the Volunteer State is on the line tonight in Knoxville. Vanderbilt is favored by one point (shocker!). If Vanderbilt wins the Tennessee state title tonight, the Commodores are bowl eligible. Vanderbilt QB Jordan Rodgers has been the biggest difference in the Commodores offensive turnaround this year and could lead Vanderbilt to a win for the second time (2005) in four trips on Rocky Top.
Prediction: The Commodores ship is steering toward bowl eligibility, Vanderbilt 27-20.

Cincinnati @ Rutgers: Last week, Cincinnati not only lost a game to West Virginia but also lost its starting quarterback, Zach Collaros, for the year. The Rutgers defense will get to feast on the new Bearcats QB, Munchie Legaux, as the Scarlet Knights defense is one of the most opportunistic in all of college football. The Bearcats still control the Big East and have won the conference’s automatic BCS berth three out of the last four seasons.
Prediction: Rutgers defense munches on a new quarterback, Scarlet Knights 27-23.

Virginia @ # 25 Florida State: Two streaking A-She-She teams meet up in Tallahassee tonight. FSU has won five straight while UVA has won three in a row. The Cavaliers can win the Coastal Division if they beat FSU and intrastate rival Virginia Tech next weekend. FSU has won five straight versus the Wahoos.
Prediction: Florida State pops UVA’s Coastal crown’s bubble, FSU 34-20.

#21 Penn State @ Ohio State: Two of the more admired teams in the Big 10 now form a twosome that not a single FBS program would trade places. OSU is facing severe NCAA infractions for the Jim Tressel and tattoo-gate fiasco while Penn State is embattled in even greater turmoil with its scandal. Penn State leads the Leaders Division by one game with a trip to Madison, WI next weekend to decide the division crown. Both teams are coming off tough three-point losses.
Prediction: The “Horror show at the Horseshoe” will be a defensive struggle; the Buckeyes tattoo PSU 23-10.

My next blog will be Monday afternoon as I review the USC/Citadel contest and preview the biggest game in USC/Clemson history.

Go Gamecocks!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Five Keys to a South Carolina Victory over The Citadel

It seems as soon as South Carolina beat Florida last Saturday that USC fans immediately turned their attention to that team from the northwest corridor of the Palmetto State. As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend!” Granted, The Citadel is a middle of the pack Southern Conference team, sub-.500 record and just a speed bump in the road towards the November 26th showdown in prime time on ESPN. But the last time the Bulldogs walked out of Williams-Brice Stadium, The Citadel upset South Carolina 38-35 as Bulldogs quarterback Jack Douglas scored the game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left to play. The milestone victory for former Citadel Head Football Coach Charlie Taffe and his Bulldogs squad shocked the college football world back on that October 20th afternoon inside the cockpit. Fast forward 21 years and the same two teams meet again at high Noon on Saturday as USC tries to extract revenge for the humbling experience the South Carolina program endured more than 20 years ago. This contest will be the 50th meeting in the series between the in-state schools with South Carolina holding a series edge, 39-7-3. Here are SPURspective’s five keys to a Gamecocks victory against The Citadel on Saturday.

South Carolina needs to take control early and score first! Thirteen straight opponents have jumped out to a quick lead versus USC. The last time Carolina enjoyed a lead was against Troy last year. USC is 9-4 in these contests. Striking quickly would fuel the crowd’s angst in getting up on an opponent early and never taking the proverbial foot off the gas for an entire 60 minutes of football. If USC could get an early double digit lead then the Gamecocks could force the Bulldogs into deviating from an offensive comfort zone (triple option) and become more of a pass heavy offense that would then unleash the Carolina pass rush on The Citadel quarterback.

The Gamecocks must establish the running game from the initial snap and show its Southern Conference guest how “physical football” is played in the SEC. The Gamecocks average a little more than 191 yards rushing per game, while the Bulldogs yield a little less than 160 yards rushing per game. A steady dose of Shaw, Wilds, Miles and Ellington might be enough to tire the Bulldogs, keep the clock moving and accelerate the focus to next Saturday’s post-Thanksgiving Day match-up with in-state rival Clemson. Keep in mind that South Carolina under Steve Spurrier is 16-0 when the Gamecocks rush for 200 yards or more.

A dominant, disciplined defense will help USC coast to victory over its in-state rival from the Port City. The Gamecocks are a top 10 defense (7th in FBS) and should benefit abundantly from already playing a triple option team (Navy) earlier in the year. It should take the Gamecocks defense at least a quarter of play to get up to speed of seeing a triple option offense run as efficiently as the Bulldogs will execute their offense. It is just too hard to simulate the precision & speed of a triple option offense in practice with a scout team in less than a week. But with the experience and preparation from the Navy game, the Gamecocks defense should get acclimated much quicker to The Citadel triple option offense. The Bulldogs are averaging 291 rushing yards per game and 34 passing yards per game. One factor that will determine USC’s defensive success is minimizing positive yardage on 1st & 10 for The Citadel.

An opportunistic South Carolina defense should force some mistakes by a Citadel team that has lost 21 turnovers. The Bulldogs have lost 14 fumbles and thrown seven interceptions. South Carolina’s defense has an affinity for gaining turnovers this year. Through 10 games the Gamecocks have set a new bench mark, 29, for turnovers gained during the Steve Spurrier era. The old record was 27 set back in 2008. IMHO, the Gamecocks should be able to increase that total versus The Citadel, as Ellis Johnson’s stop troops set their sights on the school record (39 in 1987) for turnovers forced. The Gamecocks are averaging just less than three turnovers gained per game.

Progress in the Passing Game would be priority 1-A heading into next weekend’s showdown with Clemson. The Citadel is ranked 14th in FCS Pass Defense allowing 171 passing yards per game. The Bulldogs have only intercepted five passes. Spurrier has to continue to evolve Connor Shaw’s progression as a starting quarterback in the SEC Conference. Remember Shaw has started six games this year and Carolina is (5-1) in those six games. Against SEC competition Shaw is completing slightly below 64% of his pass attempts, which is good for third place in the SEC behind McCarron (Alabama) and Lee (LSU). Shaw executed a beautiful pass to Ace Sanders last week in the fourth quarter in the clutch, which set up the field goal. Shaw is a dual-threat quarterback, which means he can run and pass equally efficiently. Shaw is the second leading rusher among SEC quarterbacks only trailing the leader by 15 yards. If the Gamecocks are running the football with effectiveness then I anticipate Spurrier unleashing the passing attack the OBC has craved all year long.

SPURspective’s Prediction: Gamecocks spank their annual in-state FCS opponent, USC 42-14.

My next blog will be posted Saturday morning with my top 10 games of week 12.

Go Gamecocks!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

SEC Power Index & USC Bowl Destinations

With week eleven in the books, the Gamecocks wrapped up their portion of the SEC Conference schedule with a win over the Florida Gators. The win was a milestone for the South Carolina football program, as the Gamecocks achieved six conference wins for the first time in school history as a member of the SEC Conference. The Gamecocks also went unbeaten (5-0) against the SEC East Division as a league member. Unfortunately, going undefeated versus the SEC East will not guarantee USC a return trip to the Georgia Dome as the SEC East’s representative. The mid-season slip-up against Auburn will more than likely cost Carolina a second consecutive SEC East Division crown, because USC had to play Arkansas, and Georgia did not play any of the top three teams (LSU, BAMA & Arkansas) on its 2011 schedule. With some Southeastern Conference schools yet to play remaining conference games, let’s see where the 12 universities stack up in this week’s SEC Power Index edition.

SEC Power Index:
1. LSU: The Bayou Bengals awoke from a first half slumber against Western Kentucky last Saturday night and plowed over the Hilltoppers in the second half. LSU is ranked #1 in the BCS with a match-up on the road at Oxford, MS against the worst team in the SEC (Ole Miss).
2. Alabama: The Crimson Tide exorcised some offensive demons in Starkville, MS last Saturday night as BAMA didn’t roll any upset bones to the Bulldogs. Alabama dives into the sisters of the poor conference (Georgia Southern) with many of its other SEC brethren before rivalry week next weekend.
3. Arkansas: The Razorbacks are sitting in the top six of the BCS with SEC West division games against Mississippi State (Little Rock) this Saturday and then LSU next Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge. If Arkansas wins out, then the SEC West & BCS get very muddy!
4. Georgia: The Bulldogs are looking like they are hitting on all cylinders at the right time. If the Dawgs can avoid a letdown (99.9% not happening!) against Kentucky then Georgia will represent the SEC East in the ATL (Atlanta). I won’t be waiting around to see if the Joker’s Wild between the hedges on Saturday.
5. South Carolina: The Gamecocks slim hope of repeating as SEC East champs resides in the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats upsetting Georgia this Saturday. USC can take solace in the fact that Carolina achieved a momentous accomplishment of garnering their sixth conference win and a chance to still win 10 regular season games.
6. Auburn: This Cam Newton-less Tigers squad looks like a shell of itself coming down the stretch of this season. Auburn looked like a demoralized team midway through the second quarter of last week’s game against Georgia. The Tigers close out the schedule by staying within the Yellow Hammer borders. This week Samford and then next week the Crimson Tide visit the Plains.
7. Florida: The Gators are still a talented team but boy it’s trying to fit a square peg (spread option personnel) in a round hole (Pro-style offense personnel). The Gators are almost 20 scholarships under the 85-scholarship limit. Urban Meyer recruited well during his heyday but this team lacks severe skill players at wide receiver and big between the tackles running backs.
8. Vanderbilt: Do you all believe in the apocalypse? Well if you don’t, then maybe seeing that Vanderbilt is a one-point favorite in Neyland Stadium this Saturday might change your opinion. Head Coach James Franklin is a breath of fresh air & what a difference a quarterback (Jordan Rodgers) who can throw the ball makes in an offense’s productivity. Vanderbilt is bowl eligible if it wins on Rocky Top.
9. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have fallen well-short of preseason expectations coming off a Gator Bowl victory over Michigan. MSU travels to Little Rock this Saturday to face the best offense in the SEC. The Bulldogs have incorporated a two-quarterback system, which has netted the Bulldogs only one win (at Kentucky) since its inception. Two QBs equals Zero QBs!
10. Tennessee: The Volunteers are really struggling with several injuries at key positions (QB & WR) along with several young players littered up & down the roster. Most teams cannot survive when losing two of their top two stars, except for USC, which lost Garcia and Lattimore. It’s the SEC and nobody feels sorry for UT. Saturday the battle for the Volunteer State’s football supremacy is at stake when Vanderbilt travels east on I-40 to Knoxville to play the Volunteers.
11. Kentucky: Thank goodness hoops season is underway and Joker Phillips can return to his forgotten man role until early April. Kentucky is an awful football team and appears to be getting worse. Hey UK fans, Mike Leach needs a gig! How about a reunion minus Hal Mumme?
12. Ole Miss: You can’t say that Ole Miss Fans were blindsided by this season! It has been a very tumultuous two years in Oxford the last 24 months. Even Sandra Bullock could not energize enthusiasm into this crumbling football program. The Egg Bowl next weekend could leave the Ole Miss Athletics department with egg on its face heading into the holiday season!

South Carolina Bowl Scenario:
The Gamecocks are bowl eligible and, as of right now, still trying to determine where USC might end up to welcome in 2012. One thing is for sure, after South Carolina plays Clemson, the Gamecocks will be playing early next year, 2012. Most of the bowl projections have USC traveling to three possible destinations:

1. Cotton Bowl (Dallas, TX)
2. Capital One Bowl (Orlando, FL)
3. Outback Bowl (Tampa, FL)

It appears the Cotton Bowl and Outback Bowl are USC’s top two choices if LSU & Alabama earn BCS bowl bids. The slotting would fall this way if LSU wins out:

LSU – BCS Championship
Alabama – Sugar Bowl
Arkansas – Capital One Bowl
Cotton Bowl – South Carolina
Outback Bowl – Georgia

If Arkansas or Georgia defeat LSU then the bowl pecking order gets crazy. I am not sure how that would play out but more than likely USC would head to the Outback Bowl. The Cotton Bowl prefers SEC West teams. LSU played there last year. BAMA is headed to a BCS bowl game, and LSU, UGA or Arkansas will join the Crimson Tide. If UGA loses in the SEC Championship, then UGA could be headed to the Capital One Bowl or Outback. USC’s primary destinations will either be Dallas, TX or Tampa, FL. I do not believe South Carolina falls below the Outback bowl.

The opponents in the Cotton Bowl could be one of three teams: Oklahoma, Kansas State or Texas. (Oklahoma State is headed to a BCS game no matter win or lose versus Oklahoma).

The opponents in the Outback Bowl could be one of three teams: Nebraska, Michigan or Penn State.

As the next three weeks will play out, USC’s bowl season endpoint will become more clear and a possible trip to Big “D” could be the destination where an SEC East team has not participated since 1999 (Tennessee).

My next blog will be Friday afternoon as I provide my top five keys to a USC victory.

Go Gamecocks!

Monday, November 14, 2011

South Carolina/Florida Review & Preview USC/Citadel Contest

On Saturday, the University of South Carolina football program achieved some historical milestones in the SEC Conference. The Gamecocks defense rebounded after a poor performance at Arkansas while the offense did just enough to stave off the Florida Gators. The Gamecocks accomplished an individual record, as well as some program goals, by polishing off the Gators. Gamecock fans knew going into the SEC East divisional match-up that points would be at a premium and that prediction held true for both teams. Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, & the ugly!

The Good:

Steve Spurrier won his 52nd game as Head Football Coach at the University of South Carolina. SOS is now 52-35 in less than seven full seasons at South Carolina. That is a 60% winning percentage. Spurrier is second all-time on USC’s Career Wins List for USC football coaches, trailing only Rex Enright (64 all-time wins).

South Carolina is now 48-48 in the SEC Conference since 2000.

Since 2005 under the Spurrier regime, South Carolina is 21-14 versus the SEC East.

USC swept the SEC East divisional opponents in football for the first time in school history.

South Carolina has won back-to-back games (2010 & 2011) versus Florida since the 1936 & 1939 seasons. The 1939 game between the two universities was the last time USC held Florida to less than 14 points, per The State.

The Gamecocks have now beaten the SEC East’s traditional Southeastern Conference powers (UGA, UT & UF) in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.

USC attained six SEC Conference wins in a season for the first time in school history.

Carolina finishes its SEC Conference schedule with a greater than .500 record for the fifth time in school history; three of which came under the Steve Spurrier era.

Regular season recipe for success as the Gamecocks have won 11 of their last 13 games, per Spurs & Feathers.

Protect this house has become the mantra for the USC football team inside the cockpit. Carolina is 18-3 over the last 21 games at Williams-Brice.

Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffrey is now USC’s all-time leader in receiving yards (2,784) surpassing the late Kenny McKinley.

Alshon Jeffrey has now caught a pass in 33 straight games. The Calhoun County native is 10 games shy of tying the school leader, Kenny McKinley, at 43.

The USC Rushing attack eclipsed 200 yards rushing for the sixth time this season. Carolina rushed for greater than 200 yards versus ECU, UGA, Navy, UK, UT and UF. The Gamecocks rank 32nd in Rushing Offense of all FBS teams, per NCAA.

Freshman Brandon Wilds eclipsed the century-mark for the second time in three starts, rushing the football for 120 yards on 29 rush attempts.

South Carolina finally kicked a red zone field goal on Saturday. The Gamecocks also became the last team in FBS to attempt a field goal inside 40 yards, per Spurs & Feathers.

Ellis Johnson’s stop troops held Florida to less than 300 total yards of offense for two consecutive years.

South Carolina’s defense surrendered only one offensive touchdown to the Gators for the second consecutive year. USC has allowed an average of 13 points over the last two years to Florida.

Turnovers gained continue to rise as the season grows long. USC recorded two fumble recoveries (12 total) against Florida, which runs USC’s turnovers gained total to 29 (tied-2nd in FBS).

The Bad:

The USC Passing game totaled 84 yards! Shaw only completed 50% of his attempts (6/12) and threw one interception. Bruce Ellington was (1/1) for three yards.

Alshon Jeffery only caught two passes for 17 yards.

The USC offense managed only 12 third-quarter total yards of offense on seven plays. South Carolina’s total time of possession in the third quarter was four minutes and 32 seconds.

2.75 is the average number of offensive touchdowns USC has scored in its past eight games, per The State.

The Gamecocks have now fallen behind in 13 straight football games. The last time USC took an early lead was versus Troy in 2010.

The Ugly:

Auburn’s lackluster performance against Georgia between the hedges in Sanford Stadium providing USC fans almost zero chance of returning to the SEC Championship game this year.

The Citadel is a tune-up game sandwiched between the Florida and Clemson games. To the Citadel fans, Sparky Woods isn’t coaching South Carolina, the Bulldogs gave up the wishbone offense, and Jack Douglas will not be suiting up at quarterback for the Citadel. George H. W. Bush is not president, and 1990 seems like eons ago when the Bulldogs last beat Carolina. I smell a rout in this game a la Troy last year. NEXT!!

Go Gamecocks!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Historical Day at Williams-Brice Stadium

South Carolina makes history at Williams-Brice Stadium today by earning their sixth SEC Conference victory to complete the 2011 SEC Conference record at 6-2; the best SEC conference record ever in school history.
Carolina also swept (5-0) its SEC East opponents for the first time in school history.

USC accomplished back-to-back wins in consecutive years against three of the SEC’s traditional powers in the SEC East (Georgia, Tennessee & Florida).
Steve Spurrier is now 21-14 versus the SEC East in seven years at USC.

Go Auburn!!!!

Record-Setting Day for Alshon Jeffrey

With his second quarter reception for three yards, junior wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey became USC’s all-time receiving yards leader surpassing the late Kenny McKinley. Jeffrey trailed McKinley by 14 yards (2,767 to McKinley’s 2,781) entering today’s game. Jeffrey surpassed former Gamecocks great wide receiver Sterling Sharpe last week versus Arkansas as the 2nd all-time career receptions leader in school history with 170. Jeffrey’s two receptions today increase his total to 172. He needs 25 more receptions to tie former wide receiver and Denver Broncos player Kenny McKinley (207).

Congratulations Alshon Jeffrey!

Top Ten College Football Games – Week Eleven

Well several good match-ups dot the college football schedule this week with games in the Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC conferences potentially earning conference championship bids. The best game of the day might take place on the West Coast in prime time. Here’s my take on the top ten games to watch today.

Oregon @ Stanford: This is a Pac-12 North divisional showdown in Palo Alto, home of the Stanford Cardinals. These two teams feature Heisman Trophy candidates, Stanford QB Andrew Luck & Oregon RB LaMichael James. Home cooking in this series is the predominant recipe for success as the home team has won the last three meetings. Should Stanford earn a top ten victory over a top ten team then the Cardinals should leapfrog a one-loss Alabama team in the BCS standings.
Prediction: No luck for the Ducks, Stanford 44-40.

Nebraska @ Penn State: Usually a battle of top 20 teams would garner attention to the game on the field, but this is no ordinary game and certainly tragic circumstances surrounding this game leading up to kickoff. We know the headlines off the field but for the first time in less than 62 years former Penn State Head Football Coach will not be on the sidelines or in the press box coaching PSU. Just to put this event in perspective, Jackie Robinson & Ted Williams had just been named AL & NL MVPs respectively, per ESPN.
Prediction: Happy Valley has been anything BUT lately, PSU claws out a win 17-13.

Auburn @ Georgia: Often referred to as the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry”, these two traditional SEC powers began playing one another in 1892 with Auburn winning. UGA has won seven straight games after an 0-2 start. The Bulldogs control the SEC East race if they can defeat Auburn & then Kentucky next week. The home team in this series usually is not a good omen. Auburn is 18-11 all-time in Athens, GA.
Prediction: The 115th meeting in the series bucks the “home” history dilemma, UGA wins 34-27.

Florida @ South Carolina: The last time a new head football coach (Urban Meyer 2005) at the University of Florida made his debut at the cockpit, the Gators lost! Let’s hope history repeats itself and the Gamecocks still breathe hope of returning to Atlanta in early December. Dating back to last year Florida has lost eight straight road games to nationally ranked opponents, per ESPN.
Prediction: Cock-a-doodle-doo Gamecocks win 21-17.

Michigan State @ Iowa: The winner of this contest will emerge as the leader in the clubhouse of the Big Ten Legends Division. Iowa demolished MSU last year at home while the Spartans were humbled at Nebraska the last time on the road. Iowa makes it two in a row over teams from the Great Lakes state.
Prediction: A good ole fashion Big Ten slobber knocker, Iowa nips Sparty 27-23.

Alabama @ Mississippi State: Alabama regroups after a tough overtime loss at home versus LSU last Saturday night. The Crimson Tide is still very much in the BCS picture and cannot afford a slip up in Starkville. BAMA has won three straight in this series.
Prediction: Alabama rights the ship, roll tide 31-13.

Oklahoma State @ Texas Tech: The Cowboys are second in the BCS behind LSU. If OSU wins out, the cowpokes will earn the right to face LSU in the BCS title game provided LSU and OSU remain undefeated. This game should be an old Big 12 shootout.
Prediction: Hope the scoreboard batteries are charged, Oklahoma State routs Texas Tech 54-38.

Miami, FL @ Florida State: Remember when this game had national implications regarding the national championship? I didn’t even know these two teams were playing this weekend! My, how far these two legendary programs have fallen in the A-She-She conference!
Prediction: There is no storm warning in Tallahassee today, Chief Osceola avoids the ‘Canes 31-27.

West Virginia @ Cincinnati: West Virginia is two games behind Big East leading Cincinnati, so the Mountaineers cannot drop this crucial road game. UC has won six straight games and will be in the driver’s seat if the Bearcats avoid a letdown at home today versus West Virginia.
Prediction: The farewell WVU Big East tour is not going well; the demise continues today, UC wins 38-20.

Texas @ Missouri: Missouri get one last chance to knock off the big bully from the lone star state before the Tigers jump to the SEC in 2012. The Longhorns are undefeated at Missouri under Mack Brown and would like to leave Mizzou with a nice parting gift---another “L”.
Prediction: Brown leaves the Show Me State unblemished, Hook ‘em Horns 45-34.

My next blog will be Monday afternoon with a review of the USC/UF game and a look ahead to the Citadel game.

Go Gamecocks!

Friday, November 11, 2011

USC Football Recruiting Update

After being away from the cockpit for more than a month, the Gamecocks will return home tomorrow and entertain several dozen recruits in front of divisional foe, Florida. A lot of the USC verbal commitments will be in attendance to watch their future college team, while there will also be a few undecided 2012 recruits in attendance checking out the game day atmosphere at Williams-Brice Stadium. I would expect around 50-60 high school prospects comprising members of the 2012, 2013 and 2014 classes.

Here is a list of Official Visitors for the South Carolina/Florida game:

1.WR Jody Fuller (Sun Valley, NC): four-star USC Commitment, but expected to visit other schools

2.DE/OLB Tyriq McCord (Tampa, FL): four-star recruit is shaping up as a USC/UF battle with USC leading. McCord will announce at the Army All-American game in early January

3. WR/TE Kelvin Rainey (Yulee, FL): four-star USC Commitment, Rainey is coming off an official visit to Arkansas last week so Carolina really needs to show him some love & firm up his commitment, because Rainey said Arkansas gave him “things” to think about after his visit to Fayetteville. Rainey is an early enrollee in 2012.

4.Safety Elijah Shumate (Ramsey, NJ): four-star recruit will be making his first visit to Columbia. The Garden State native plays at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. This is a USC/Rutgers battle with Notre Dame on the outside for now. Shumate is good friends with several of USC’s New Jersey freshmen trio (Byrd, Royster and McEvoy) and committed LB (Kaiwan Lewis). Carolina is the perceived leader.

5. OL Clayton Stadnik (Greensboro, NC): two-star USC Commitment will be visiting with his twin brother, Brock. The smaller Stadnik, Clayton, is expected to compete on the interior of the USC o-line in 2013 after a redshirt year. Clayton Stadnik is an early 2012 enrollee.

6. OL Brock Stadnik (Greensboro, NC): four-star USC Commitment will be visiting with his twin brother, Clayton. Brock Stadnik is a highly regarded o-lineman at the tackle position and is expected to compete for a starter’s position on the 2012 USC o-line. Brock Stadnik is an early 2012 enrollee.

My next blog will be Saturday when I post my top ten games for week eleven.

Five Keys to a South Carolina Victory over Florida

Last Saturday night did not turn out the way Gamecock nation had hoped. Arkansas soundly beat USC in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) of the game. Despite all the obstacles that South Carolina had to overcome last weekend in Fayetteville, the Gamecocks only trailed by two points (30-28) after an early fourth quarter Connor Shaw touchdown run. The Gamecocks managed only 207 total yards of offense but did manufacture 28 points with the aid of a defensive touchdown when DE Devin Taylor intercepted a Tyler Wilson pass attempt and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown. Winning at Arkansas was going to be a challenge even before Carolina lost Lattimore, Nunn and Garcia on offense, but there are still realistic goals on the table for this team with three games remaining on the schedule. Yes, the Gamecocks fumbled away their control to repeat as the SEC East Division champions in Fayetteville but all is not lost if Carolina can beat Florida on Saturday at high noon. Here are five keys to the game if South Carolina is to emerge victorious at the cockpit.

The Earlier the Better: The SEC did South Carolina a major favor by giving the Gamecocks the earliest kickoff time slot on Saturday. By not playing after Georgia on Saturday, the Gamecocks can be totally focused on UF rather than scoreboard watching the Georgia/Auburn game. Basically if USC beats Florida then all of the pressure shifts to UGA, who plays the 3:30 CBS game right after the completion of the USC/UF game. I think the Gamecocks were granted a major mental edge when selected for the Noon CBS kickoff slot. Hypothetically, if ESPN had picked South Carolina for a night game and the Gamecocks sat around in their hotel rooms all afternoon and watched UGA beat Auburn, then I would anticipate a dejected USC squad taking the field against the Gators. Now the preseason goal of repeating as SEC East Division champion is still attainable for this team, and wouldn’t it be poetic if South Carolina beats Florida, then Auburn upsets Georgia and South Carolina fans get to revel in a division championship inside the cockpit finally!

This Isn’t Your Toddler’s Gators: Remember the days of Florida with either Spurrier or Urban Meyer at the helm coming to the cockpit and putting a beat down on the Gamecocks? Well this year’s version of the Florida Gators is a shell of the team that won the National Championship in 2009. The Gators are down to less than 70 scholarship players. Yes, Florida has excellent frontline talent (22 starters), but when the Gators have to sub personnel on either side of the ball there is inexperience and a drop-off in talent. There is no Tim Tebow at quarterback. There is no Brandon Spikes at middle linebacker and there is no Percy Harvin at wide receiver. Florida is a 5-4 football team that has not beaten a team with a winning record yet. The Gators started the season 4-0 (beat FAU, UAB, Tennessee & Kentucky), then lost four straight games (Alabama, LSU, Auburn & Georgia) and then last week held off a feisty Vanderbilt squad 26-21, after holding the Commodores scoreless in the first half. Florida scores a little less than two-thirds (149 points) of its 234 total points scored in the first half, so if South Carolina can stymie the Gators offense in the first 30 minutes of the ballgame, then I like USC’s chances to wear down a very thin Florida Gators roster in the second half. USC matches up a whole lot better personnel-wise with Florida than Arkansas!

Negate the Sunshine Speed: The South Carolina defense must be aware of where #28 RB Chris Rainey & #5 RB Jeff Demps line-up every single play. UF likes to get these two speedsters out on the edges against slower linebackers and safeties in one-on-one coverage. Antonio Allen and the USC linebackers will have to spy Rainey and Demps, as Florida will try and sneak these two running backs out into passing routes and get single coverage on USC defenders that benefit the Gators. It would assist Ellis Johnson’s defense if the Gamecocks punish Demps & Rainey every chance the Gamecocks “D” gets.

Avoid Special Teams Meltdown: USC Special Teams Coach John Butler must emphasize discipline when covering kick-offs and punts this Saturday. If USC is to beat Florida then the Gamecocks cannot give up a cheap special team touchdown, i.e. Arkansas’ Dennis Johnson’s 98-yard kick-off return last week. Florida has some of the most dangerous kick/punt returners in college football. The Gators have returned a kickoff and punt for TDs this season so far. If USC has to pooch kick its kickoffs then I implore this strategy. If the USC punter has to kick the ball out of bounds that is fine. I would rather take my chances with our defense versus Florida’s offense on a short field then commit a mental mistake that leads to a quick score by a UF kickoff/punt returner. Discipline and fundamentals on special teams cannot be underestimated this week, if Carolina is to secure its first-ever sixth win in the SEC Conference.

Protect the Football: During South Carolina’s three-game road swing, the Gamecocks committed seven turnovers. USC managed to win two out of three away from the cockpit even though the Gamecocks were sloppy at times in protecting the football, especially at Arkansas last week when USC committed four turnovers. One of the turnovers came at a crucial time with Carolina trailing Arkansas by two points, driving towards midfield when freshman RB Brandon Wilds and sophomore QB Connor Shaw ran into each other during a hand-off exchange and the Razorbacks recovered, subsequently ending a USC rally. In South Carolina’s two losses, the Gamecocks have committed eight turnovers (five fumbles & three interceptions). If South Carolina can minimize its turnovers to less than two, then, IMHO, the Gamecocks improve their home field advantage.

Spurspective’s Prediction: An old-fashioned defensive game, just the way SOS drew it up, USC 21-17.

My next blog will be tonight when I’ll post a little recruiting information on visitors to the USC/UF game this weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Penn State Fires Head Football Coach Joe Paterno

The Penn State Board of Trustees fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno tonight along with PSU President Graham Spanier per ESPN. Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley takes over as interim head coach.

Monday, November 7, 2011

South Carolina/Arkansas Review & USC/UF Preview

When I made my preseason predictions, my crystal ball told me that Arkansas was the biggest pitfall on the 2011 schedule. Primarily because USC’s defensive personnel does not match-up well with Arkansas skill players (WRs mostly). Well Saturday night, Gamecock fans’ worst nightmares played out on national television as we watched Razorbacks wide receivers running wide open without a USC defensive player in the television screen (at least not on my 32” Toshiba non-flat, non-HD screen). Folks let’s be honest, Arkansas easily could have put up 60-plus points on South Carolina if not for WRs having a case of the dropsies and an inaccurate place kicker (two misses) in the first half. I was most disheartened as I watched in the first half and USC stubbornly tried to pass the football instead of running the football. Did Carolina’s coaching staff not receive the Vanderbilt/Arkansas game tape from Halloween weekend? Did the Gamecocks coaching staff not read my five keys to Victory on Friday? Arkansas was surrendering 248.5 rushing yards per game versus six BCS-level schools. South Carolina ran for a paltry 79 yards rushing on 33 attempts. I still do not understand what kind of philosophy Steve Spurrier wants to implement in year seven. I guess we should be happy we are 7-2 with all of the injuries and off the field distractions, plus a shot to still win the SEC East Division if Auburn beats UGA. So let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly from this weekend in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Good:
Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffrey surpassed former Gamecocks great WR Sterling Sharpe to become the 2nd all-time career leader in receptions at USC. Jeffrey currently has 170 career receptions and needs 38 more receptions to eclipse Kenny McKinley as the all-time leader in school history.

Wide Receiver Alshon Jeffrey has now caught a pass in 32 straight games. The Calhoun County native is 11 games shy of tying the school leader, Kenny McKinley, at 43.

DE Devin Taylor became the third Carolina defensive player to score a touchdown this year, when the junior from Beaufort, SC rumbled 48 yards in the second quarter to give USC a brief 14-10 lead. It was Taylor’s second career interception returned for a touchdown. Taylor returned an INT for a touchdown last year versus Tennessee.

Third-Down Conversion Rate for South Carolina on offense was 8/12 (66%).

Turnovers gained continue to increase as the season grows long. USC recorded one interception (17 total INTs) against Arkansas, which runs USC’s turnovers gained total to 27 (3rd in FBS). That interception stopped a streak of Wilson not throwing an interception in 185 consecutive pass attempts.

The Bad:
The USC rushing attack was non-existent! South Carolina managed a meager 21 yards on 16 rushes in the first half, per The State newspaper. Arkansas was ranked 89th in the country prior to Saturday night and USC could not even muster 100 yards against the Razorbacks. USC’s leading rusher was QB Connor Shaw with 24 yards on 14 carries. Brandon Wilds had 10 carries for 21 yards.

Pass protection is what it is for South Carolina. It is abysmal and there are no answers for this problem until some of these young players get stronger and mature more physically. We have more issues than redshirt freshman Cody Gibson at right tackle. Let’s be fair to this redshirt freshman. This kid missed all of preseason camp with a knee injury and just does not have the foot quickness to pass block speed rushers in the SEC conference. We have three guards, Watkins, Cann & Gibson, attempting to play two tackle positions that just do not have the proper quickness to play on the outside in the SEC Conference. The loss of Kyle Nunn has had an enormous impact on the struggles of South Carolina’s o-line. This problem goes back to the first four years of Spurrier’s regime and lack of offensive linemen recruiting under former o-line coach, John Hunt.

South Carolina’s o-line yielded five sacks to Arkansas defense. DE Jake Bequette, a senior, recorded three sacks and abused both redshirt freshmen, Cody Gibson & A.J. Cann, all night long. Bequette nearly decapitated USC quarterback Connor Shaw late in the fourth quarter.

A Tight End beside an offensive tackle, who is obviously getting whipped by the defensive end is still legal last time I checked in football.

Lack of pass rush by the South Carolina d-line. This vaunted d-line was clobbered by an Arkansas o-line all night.

Four Turnovers by the Gamecocks were also an Achilles heel. Coming into the game, USC had lost 19 turnovers but for the most part was able to overcome these mistakes by playing lousy offensive teams. Saturday night, Arkansas capitalized on every single USC mistake except the interception thrown by Shaw in the second half.

Quick strike capability by the Razorbacks negated any momentum South Carolina developed on Saturday night. USC took a 7-3 first quarter lead only to see Arkansas Dennis Johnson return the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown giving the Razorbacks a 10-7 lead. Then following Devin Taylor’s interception return for a touchdown, which gave USC a 14-10 lead, Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson connected with Jarius Wright on a 68-yard TD strike on the very first play giving Arkansas a 17-14 lead.

The USC pass defense was accused of being a fraud because of the pass-challenged teams we faced leading up to the Arkansas game. Carolina was ranked 3rd in the nation heading into the top ten match-up, but after Tyler Wilson carved up the USC secondary for 299 yards and two TD passes it is apparent that the accolades for the USC Pass Defense are exaggerated based on previous competition.

3.57 yards per play by the USC offense. South Carolina accumulated 207 total yards on 58 plays from scrimmage.

Six consecutive road-winning streak snapped at Arkansas.

Arkansas & Auburn have handed USC 71% of its losses (5 of 7 total losses) over the past one year-plus seasons.

The Ugly:
USC’s Special Teams has become the antithesis post-UGA game. The Gamecocks allowed a 98-yard touchdown return by Dennis Johnson. Carolina also was flagged for roughing the punter in the second quarter on, coincidentally, Arkansas’ only punt attempt. The penalty netted five yards for a first down and kept a drive going for the Razorbacks that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jarius Wright giving Arkansas a 24-14 lead.

The fourth quarter sack of Connor Shaw by Arkansas DE Jake Bequette knocked the Gamecocks sophomore QB out of the game with a concussion. Shaw lay on the field for several minutes until he walked to the sideline on his own power. It was a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that should have been penalized but was not and now USC’s quarterback situation is in limbo going into the Florida game.

Carolina has now lost 23 consecutive road games versus AP top ten teams.

DE Melvin Ingram dropping into pass coverage instead of rushing the quarterback! Why in the world is our best pass rusher trying to cover receivers and tight ends? Don’t tell me, well it allows Jadeveon Clowney to get on the field. Last time I checked, Clowney was being absorbed into every single tackle that gets in his way!

Now looking ahead to the South Carolina/Florida match-up on Saturday at high noon in the cockpit, this game boils down to what quarterbacks might take the field for either team. USC starter Connor Shaw and UF starter John Brantley were both injured last Saturday. We could have an SEC East divisional contest between backup quarterbacks come this weekend. The Gators are coming off a win against Vanderbilt snapping a four-game losing streak. The Gamecocks can still achieve six SEC conference wins for the first time ever in school history and possibly wrap up the SEC East Division title later in the day if Auburn upsets UGA in Athens.

My next blog will be Wednesday evening.

Go Gamecocks!

The Magnolia State’s New Six Million Dollar Man

No, Lee Majors is not making a comeback in television, but University of Mississippi Head Football Coach Houston Nutt will not be returning to the sidelines next season in Oxford, per Chris Low of ESPN.

Also, embattled Ole Miss Athletic Director, Pete Boone, is expected to step down once his successor is hired, per multiple radio reports.

Nutt in his fourth season at Ole Miss is guaranteed a six million dollar buyout of his remaining contract. Ole Miss finished 4-8 last season after winning back-to-back Cotton Bowls in Nutt’s first two seasons. This season, Ole Miss is 2-7, has lost 12 straight SEC conference games and has lost to instate rival Mississippi State two years in a row.
Some of the expected names to replace Houston Nutt are the following:

Kirby Smart, Alabama Defensive Coordinator
Gus Malzahn, Auburn Offensive Coordinator
Kevin Sumlin, Houston Cougars Head Football Coach
Mike Leach, former Texas Tech Head Football Coach

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Devin Taylor Ends Tyler Wilson's Streak

Taylor intercepted Wilson's 185th pass attempt and returned it for a touchdown. This marks an end to Wilson's unbelievable streak.

Top Ten Games for Week 10

It’s the most anticipated college football weekend of the century. The game of the millennium! Folks have been anticipating the kickoff of this game since the beginning of October. It’s time for Houston and UAB to strap it on and get after one another…PSYCHE!

Is there any other game on the schedule besides the LSU/Alabama clash in T-town, aka Tuscaloosa, Alabama? Well not including the USC/Arkansas game, I don’t think so! Here are nine other games you might want to watch until eight o’clock tonight.

Just remember before you turn off the television Saturday night, turn your clock back one hour for Daylight Savings Time. Just a friendly reminder!

LSU @ Alabama: What can be written more about this game that ESPN hasn’t broadcasted since last Saturday? This game is primetime on CBS with Verne & Gary! It is a de facto national-semifinal contest for the BCS National Championship game. LSU is 30-1 under Les Miles when playing on the road at night. Miles is undefeated (2-0) against Alabama when coming off a bye week.
Prediction: In the game of the century, LSU turns back the Tide 24-19.

South Carolina @ Arkansas: Read yesterday’s Five Keys to a USC victory.
Prediction: Road Warriors survive; USC makes Razorbacks squeal 24-23.

Kansas State @ Oklahoma State: Oklahoma State is third in the BCS standings and possibly sniffing a conference title for the first time in a quarter century. Kansas State was the talk of college football until Oklahoma throttled the Wildcats in a 41-point home loss. The Fightin’ T. Boone Pickens continue their march to a showdown with instate rival Oklahoma next month.
Prediction: The scoreboard in Stillwater will be anything but quiet; OSU in a shootout beats KSU 49-38.

Texas A&M @ Oklahoma: Texas A&M has not had a whole lot of success in Norman, OK over the last several years, losing six straight to OU when traveling north to the Sooner State. The Aggies dropped an overtime loss at home last week to Missouri, and I doubt Oklahoma will drop back-to-back home games (OU lost to Texas Tech back on October 22nd).
Prediction: Boomer Sooner rolls, OU 45-31.

Texas Tech @ Texas: Texas Tech is like an elevator: up & down. Two weeks ago the Red Raiders shocked unbeaten Oklahoma in Norman and then turned around last week and laid an egg at home in Lubbock to Iowa State (41-7). Texas, meanwhile, has handled every team on its schedule not from the state of Oklahoma.
Prediction: Bevo gets another instate victory, Texas 34-30.

Michigan @ Iowa: Noting like a mid-season Big Ten Legends battle at high noon. Iowa lost to lowly Minnesota last week and cannot afford another loss to a divisional foe. Iowa has won two straight against Michigan but has never won three straight over the Wolverines. I’ll take Denard Robinson and Michigan!
Prediction: Maize & Blue outlasts Maize & Black; Michigan wins 31-20.

Arizona State @ UCLA: The fightin’ Neuheisels are still mathematically a viable option to represent the South Division in the Pac-12 championship if the Bruins can knock off ASU. The Sun Devils are 1-2 on the road this year and have lost four out of the last five trips to Pasadena.
Prediction: Neuheisel’s seat is getting hotter; ASU wins 34-24.

Oregon @ Washington: Another Pac-12 tilt, this game takes place in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. The Quack Attack hopes to make a smooth landing in U-Dub on its trek to the Pac-12 Championship. The Huskies can score with anybody, but the problem is, Oregon usually scores more points than its opponents not in the SEC. OU has too many weapons on offense.
Prediction: Oregon doesn’t mind a shootout, quack, quack, Ducks win 53-41.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh: Remember this epic 45-44 Bearcats win two years ago in the blizzard in Pittsburgh, when the winner of this game would represent the Big East in a BCS bowl game? Well, how times have changed. The Big East still gets an automatic bid to a BCS game, but I am afraid there might not be a Big East conference left by season’s end.
Prediction: Cincinnati remains unbeaten in the Big East, UC 33-24.

Notre Dame @ Wake Forest: This could potentially be a conference game in 2016 or sooner? Wake Forest is beginning to fade, while Notre Dame’s season is turning out to be a typical Fighting Irish season – underachieving! WFU travels to Death Valley next Saturday for a key Atlantic Division battle with Clemson.
Prediction: The Fighting Irish get an early, early A-She-She conference win, Irish 42-24.

My next blog will be posted on Monday, as I review the South Carolina/Arkansas game.

Go Gamecocks!