This was easily the most painful game of the 2007 campaign for the Gamecocks. The Team from the Upstate rebounded from being down 21-20, converted after 3rd-and-18 and kicked a game-winning field goal as the last seconds ticked off the clock. In our house. To end any hope of a bowl and any hope of redeeming the season.
And so this is a revenge game, as entirely too many games against the Team from the Upstate have been over the years. The problem is that wanting revenge won't be enough to win the game.
O-line. Two starters return from last year's squad, which already ranked 100th in the FBS by allowing 2.69 sacks a game. And the rushing offense was not as good as you think: 50th in the country, with 161.2 ypg. Good, but not great. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Quarterback. The questioning of Cullen Harper confuses me. Sure, he had a running threat that you had to respect, and that's going to help anyone's number. But: 282-of-433, 2,991 yards, 27 TDs, 6 INTs. His QB rating was 140.96, good for 22nd in the country. ADVANTAGE: TEAM FROM THE UPSTATE
Running backs. The DaviSpiller monster accounted for 2,851 all-purpose yards and 19 TDs last year. Sure, it might not be Darren McFadden and Felix Jones, but it's still pretty good. And this tandem actually returns this year. ADVANTAGE: TEAM FROM THE UPSTATE
Remind me again why we decided to play for Tommy Bowden...
Wide receivers. Aaron Kelly returns with his 88 receptions, 1,081 yards and 11 TDs. He's backed up by Tyler Grisham, 60 catches, 653 yards and 4 TDs. They're just flat deeper than South Carolina. ADVANTAGE: TEAM FROM THE UPSTATE
Defensive line. Ricky Sapp, who had 10 TFL, five of them sacks, is one of three returning starters on the front. The rushing defense was actually better, in some ways, than the rushing offense last year: 23rd in the country, 118.3 ypg. However, they are without Phillip Merling, he of the 78 tackles, 17 TFL, 7 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Linebackers. One starter returns to this squad, and the losses include leading tackler Nick Watkins, who had 118 last year, and Tramaine Billie, he of the 79 tackles, 4 TFL and seven quarterback pressures. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Secondary. All the starters return after a year in which the Team from the Upstate ranked 13th in pass efficiency defense, allowing a 108.31 QB rating. Last year, the Tiggers had 16 picks. ADVANTAGE: TEAM FROM THE UPSTATE
Kicking -- bah! The Team from the Upstate can't kick! NAH NAH NAH!!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!! Actually, Mark Buchholz only hit 61.1 percent of his FG attempts. On the other hand, Jimmy Maners averaged 42.8 yards on his punts. The return game was good on kickoffs, but so-so on punts. ADVANTAGE: PUSH
Tommy Bowden. Versus Steve Spurrier. You're kidding, right? ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA
Again, I never pick the Team from the Upstate to win. Tradition is the only reason to make this selection. POSSIBLE WIN
THE REST OF THEIR SEASON
This is the year for the Team from the Upstate, or so we're told. If they can get past Alabama, the Tiggers are set up to open the season 5-0 before they head to Wake Forest for the de facto Atlantic Division championship game. We think. After that, the toughest remaining conference game is at Florida State. You have the creeping thought: "Dear, merciful Heaven -- they could go undefeated." Then you remember that they're coached by Tommy Bowden. 10-2
Thus concludes the Target File series -- finally. Upcoming: the final month of the national slate in one preview, and FIVE REASONS debuts for the 2008 season.
And then, football.