1. Not as good as you thought it was. Sorry to burst your bubble a bit, but South Carolina didn't outplay Tennessee nearly as badly as the score indicates, nor as badly as I thought while I was watching the game. First downs were even, at 11 apiece. Total yardage? South Carolina 255, Tennessee 207. Time of possession? South Carolina, 32:30 to 27:30. The story was one of turnovers (Vols 3, Gamecocks 1) and bad coaching decisions by Phil Fulmer and Co. This win was important emotionally and in terms of momentum, but it was not an indication that eight wins are assured.
2. The Eric Berry interception. You want to say "It could have been worse -- they could have scored," but that wouldn't be accurate. The game was almost out of reach when Berry grabbed the Garcia pass, so the score wouldn't have hurt that much. Losing as many as three offensive players could hurt worse. We're probably okay without Eric Baker, but losing Lemuel Jeanpierre (or any offensive lineman) isn't good -- maybe not fatal, but also not somethign to be shrugged off. Luckily, it seems that Stephen Garcia should be ready to play next week against Arkansas.
3. Stephen Garcia Watch. Better, though it might not really show up in a line that shows him completing less than 50 percent of his passes and not doing so well rushing.
|vs Tennessee / 11.1.08||Passing||Rushing|
But the encouraging thing I saw was that Garcia is beginning to use his mobility to do more than take off running when the play breaks down. He's using it to buy time for his receivers and backs to get open -- such as on the TD pass to Mike Davis to go up 7-0. This is where the combination of Steve Spurrier's offense and Garcia's legs could be most dangerous: If Garcia can escape the pocket and give Spurrier's plays more time to work.
4. Bowl eligible -- and likely going. Even if South Carolina wins no more games this year, the Gamecocks should end up in the postseason. Tennessee, Auburn, Mississippi State and/or Arkansas are going to be hard-pressed to make a bowl game this year. So the question now is how high South Carolina will go. An 8-win season will almost assure a Peach Bowl berth and could put the Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl. (That scenario: Florida and Alabama both go to the BCS, Georgia heads to the Capitol One, LSU goes to Cotton and South Carolina heads to the Outback.) Obviously, a return to the Liberty or Independence bowls would not be ideal, so the Gamecocks need to put together a couple more wins.
5. Up next: Arkansas. Don't write off the Hogs. They've found a good running back, even if he can't "replace" Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, in Michael Smith.
|2008 - Michael Smith||8||186||987||123.4||5.3||0||7||29||300||37.5||10.3||0||2|
And, like any Petrino team, Arkansas is piling up the passing yards; their 249.7 ypg are 29th in the country and second in the SEC. Fortunately, that plays into the Gamecocks' strong suit. But this will be a game; the Hogs just won a big game against Tulsa and could have momentum on their side.
Sure, this was probably an inferior opponent, but South Carolina has lost to inferior Tennessee teams before. The Gamecocks capitalized on some mistakes by the Vols and made a hard-fought game a clear win. They will need better games to defeat Clemson and Arkansas and to keep things respectable against Florida.