This post concludes my previews on the UAB game. Please be sure to come by tomorrow evening and join the open thread.
Three Keys to Victory
3. Get the running game going. If Shaw starts, this will probably take care of itself. With Thompson, it could be interesting. ECU dared us to throw last week, and while they were able to stuff the running game pretty well, they left themselves out to dry against the pass. If Thompson goes again this week, it will be interesting to see how UAB responds. If they're more cautious against the pass, you'll obviously see the running game benefit. If they don't, I'd still like to see more rushing yardage. I thought part of the problem last week was play calling. ECU was stacking the box, yet most of our runs were pretty standard, straight-up-the-middle stuff. Why not see what Lattimore can do off-tackle? I also think offensive line personnel is interesting in relation to offensive balance. Against Vandy, we ran well but had trouble passing. That was perhaps because Brandon Shell was in most of the game, and he's great in run-blocking but still has room for improvement against the pass. Some of the other combinations seem better suited for pass blocking but aren't as good against the run. I'd really like to see us find a group that can do both effectively. In any event, our success here probably won't have an impact on the outcome of the game, which we should win easily, but it's important for us to develop more balance offensively as the year wears on.
2. Protect the ball. Most great upsets rely on a plethora of ugly turnovers by the favorite, followed by opportune scores by the underdog. The Gamecocks can't let that happen in this game. If Shaw starts, we have little reason to believe we'll have this problem, considering his track record. If it's Thompson, I also feel confident. Although I didn't think Thompson's accuracy and reads were as good as his numbers suggested last week, one thing I did like was that he didn't put the ball in danger. His deep throws were put where only our guy could get to them, and his throws into dense coverage generally had the kind of zip on them that keeps defenders from getting in there and making a play. This reflected some of the things we've heard about Thompson being a smart player, and I'd like to see more such evidence from Thompson this weekend. Not fumbling against needless contact would be nice, too.
1. Come to play. Even given their obvious problems on the offensive line, their bad defense, and Tyler Wilson's injury, Arkansas still should have beaten Louisiana-Monroe last week. The talent gap was still too wide. The loss should principally be ascribed to a failure to take ULM seriously. Whether it was the coaches not calling a balanced offensive gameplan, the players not thinking it could happen to them until it was too late, or whatever, Arkansas did not treat their game with the Warhawks with sufficient gravity. Similarly, if we don't take UAB seriously, bad things might happen. If we come ready to play, we win handily.
ECU is probably a better team than UAB, and Carolina handled the Pirates fine last week. There's no reason to believe things won't go just as well tomorrow, although the game might go a little differently in terms of how the points are scored. 45-7 Gamecocks.