I contacted esteemed Wolfpack expert Section Six to talk about the upcoming game. Find out what he said after the jump.
1. Tell us a little bit about what kind of season
Wolfpack fans expect from year two of the Tom O'Brien
era. Do you think you'll go bowling this winter?
With so many new faces bound to get significant
playing time this season, it's nearly impossible to
know what to expect, which is all part of the fun, I
guess. The brutal out-of-conference schedule (South
Carolina, ECU, South Florida) makes bowl eligibility a
long shot this season; the team could be better than a
year ago (and the players certainly think it is) and
still finish worse than 5-7. And I'd be okay with
that. As long as there are some signs of progress.
We're a couple of years away from being the steady 7-8
win team Tom O'Brien constructed at Boston College,
but we'll get there.
This year I'm mainly looking to see which young guys
emerge--opportunities abound at linebacker, safety,
wide receiver, and quarterback. If we find a way to
win six or seven games along the way, that's gravy.
2. Gamecock fans are still having nightmares about our
how poor our rushing defense was late last season. You
probably remember hearing about Darren McFadden and
Tim Tebow padding their Heisman resumes against us. We
hope to be better this year, but we'd still like to
know about your running game. You guys have a couple
of experienced backs: senior Andre Brown and junior
Jamelle Eugene. I know that Eugene came on strong late
last season for you guys when you had a four game
winning streak. Tell us a little more about these RBs,
and what we can expect to see from them next Thursday.
Jamelle was huge for us last season, because after
Toney Baker and Brown got hurt, we were out of
options. Eugene had hardly played up to that
point--he'd pondered transferring elsewhere--but he
stuck with the program, and when we needed him, he
proved to be a durable running back who could handle
20+ carries a game. He's smaller and quicker than
Brown, and also more versatile--he caught 42 passes in
2007, more than Andre's caught in three seasons at NC
State. He'll continue to be an important part of the
Andre Brown has become a forgotten man, it seems.
There was the injury last season, but he's also split
carries in a crowded backfield for much of his career.
He has averaged more than 5 yards-per-carry in
amassing 1700+ career rushing yards, numbers that are
quite good considering the poor offensive lines he's
had in front of him. (Not to mention the frequently
awful passing game.) He's the more powerful runner of
the two, which will probably prompt one of the ESPN
guys to call him a "change of pace" back, but that's
not fair--he can run away from folks, too.
3. We know that O'Brien and his staff only recently
pegged redshirt freshman Russell Wilson as your
starting QB for the game. How much confidence do you
have in this decision, and what kind of performance do
you expect from Wilson next Thursday?
I feel good about it; Daniel Evans has logged enough
time at this point that we know exactly what we're
going to get from him. Wilson is the less-refined
passer of the two, but I think the coaches looked at
his speed and felt they needed to see how that changes
the dynamic for the offense in real game situations.
If the scrimmages are any indication, we can expect
Wilson to be an inefficient passer who should be
considered a threat to run at all times. I hope we
see a few spread option-type wrinkles on Thursday.
4. Most of the betting lines I've seen have us favored
by 11-13 points. Do think that's a little high,
considering our late season collapse last year, or do
you think it's about right?
I go back and forth on it; when the lines first
started appearing, I thought they were too high. As
we've progressed through camp in the meantime, the
injuries have started hitting hard again, and now it
feels more like it's about right. But I've also
reached a point where the excitement of an impending
game has made the "Woo! We're going to win because I
can consider no other alternative!" part of my brain
supercede the logical part. Sit down, rational
thought. Nobody likes a wet blanket.
5. Tell us what you think the Pack have to do to pull
off an upset.
I'd like to avoid a keys-to-the-game level of
triteness here, but I can admit when I'm defeated. We
need to run the ball well, and we need to force more
turnovers than we commit. Our running backs are our
biggest strength, and Russell Wilson will force the
defense to contend with quarterback draws and option
plays, so there is reason for some optimism. We don't
want to have to put the ball in the air a lot against
one of the better secondaries in the country. The
receivers have talent, they just can't be trusted.