The game is upon us. Do any of you anticipate trouble sleeping tonight? I do. Here's the final preview before we head into the gauntlet of 2009 Gamecocks football.
Three Keys for a Gamecocks Victory
1. Offensive Line Play / Running Game
Steve Spurrier's comments over the past few days would suggest that he's going to let his backs try to carry us tomorrow night. If they can make solid gains, we'll move the sticks and set up opportunities for Mr. Garcia to put the nails in the coffin. However, N. C. State has just the defensive line to contain them, and if the running game flounders, it'll put Garcia in a position where he has to play hero. We saw how that went last year; well in the Kentucky game, horribly every other time.
Garcia doesn't have to be Tim Tebow tomorrow night. In fact, I don't think Spurrier is going to ask him to throw quite as much as was the norm last year. However, when he does drop back, Garcia has to know when to throw, know when to run, connect on a few downfield passes to keep State on their toes, and most of all, avoid turnovers. If he can do those things, we have a great chance.
3. Secondary Play
I have a feeling we're going to see a corner burned at least once tomorrow. However, if we can avoid letting it happen enough to make State beat us the hard way, I think we can hold them to few enough points so that we can win.
Honorable Mention: Defensive Line Play
This series is tied at 26-26-4, meaning that the winner will take the series lead. We've scored 905 to 888 all-time against the 'Pack. Thank you Data Warehouse.
Like Joe Person, I've been calling this one a victory all summer. Who wouldn't, considering that we blew State out last year despite playing like garbage? However, I've lost a little bit of my confidence after getting to know State a little better and seeing us lose a couple of key defensive linemen to suspension. I think State is going to be pretty good this year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I also think that, although I expect the replacements to be capable, losing Ladi Ajiboye and Clifton Geathers for this game will hurt us, especially Geathers, as I had hoped he could help tame Russell Wilson with his pass rush. Throw all that in with the likelihood that we're going to be walking into a raucous environment in Raleigh and you've got the makings of tough fight.
At the same time, though, I still think we have a better than average chance of winning this game. State's probably going to get some points against us, no doubt. There's no way our depleted defensive line and young secondary can contain a Wilson-led offense all night. However, I at the same time think we're going to see a different Gamecocks offense tomorrow night. We're not going to score 40, mind you, and Stephen Garcia isn't going to enter Heisman contention. I think we will, though, score some points, and I think we'll limit the turnovers. That's going to lead to a 31-28 victory.
What's your prediction?
Finally, be sure to drop by this evening to check in on the open thread. I probably won't be able to join you, as I'll be watching the game at a local beer and wing joint.