Alabama at South Carolina: Three Keys, What It Means, and Prediction

AUBURN AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks looks to pass against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 25 2010 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Three Keys

3. Protect Stephen Garcia

Garcia is capable of playing well as long as he gets the necessary protection. One problem is that that protecdtion has broken down in each of the past three games, and turnovers have been the result. Protecting Garcia won't be easy against the 'Bama rush, but with a good game plan and inspired line play, I think we can do it.

2. Challenge Alabama to Throw the Ball Vertically

Alabama would love nothing more than to dink and dunk us to death with short passes and consistent four-yard gains by Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. That will allow them wear our defense out and pick their spots for when they want to loosen the defense up with the vertical game. If we can force them into situations where they have to throw it, though, we may be able to force their offense out of its comfort zone, keep them off the field, and maybe even force a turnover or two. That could really help make a difference. Slowing down 'Bama's offense will require us to control the line of scrimmage, though, and that's no small task against the Tide.

1. Move the Chains and Control the Clock

Clearly, we want to move the football and score some points. Who doesn't? How we do it, though, could be very important to determining the outcome of this game. If we score with big plays, the points will be good, but it might not be as useful for helping us win the war as moving moving the ball efficiently with the running and short-passing games. If we can make a close game out of this one, it will make a world of difference if we're facing a worn 'Bama defense, one that, as we should remember, hasn't had the benefit of our time off. On the flip side of things, if we allow 'Bama to control time of possession, you can bet that when the fourth rolls around, they'll run it up the gut against a tired Carolina defense, just like they did last year.

What It Means

We don't have to win this game to consider 2010 a successful season. We didn't come into this season expecting to beat national-title-caliber teams, and certainly no one is going to hold it against us if we lose. However, I do think it's important that we have a respectable performance in this game. Nick Saban has talked about how this game is going to test his team, and I think the same is the case for us. With the team coming off a close loss, this is a game where we should see our identity come into focus. Are we going to wilt now that we've lost a game or are we going to fight it out and finish the season? I want to see our guys toughen both physically and mentally and give Alabama all it can handle. Against a team like the Tide, you can't hope for much more. As far as winning goes, I believe that we're imminently capable of making a game of this one if we play to our potential, and if we can get to the end game with victory in sight, you never know what might happen.

It's of course worth remembering that we have Gameday in town and the nation's eyes upon us. This is a capital opportunity to make a lasting dent on the national consciousness, and that could make a big difference with recruiting.

Prediction

I have had a fairly serence feeling about this game, and that usually means that we're going to be OK. Unfortunately, I have trouble seeing us actually winning this game, as the Tide are clearly--unlike any other team on our schedule--the kind of team that can take our very best shot at the W-B and still go home winners. I see Alabama winning by less than a TD, with both teams scoring in the 20s. Prove me wrong, Carolina. Prove me wrong.

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