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Previewing S. C. State at South Carolina: Three Keys, Fun Fact, and Prediction

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Time to welcome the Bulldogs to Columbia. Here are my thoughts on the game.

Three Keys

1. Strike Early and Often and Don't Self Destruct

Games against FCS opponents are opportunities to build confidence, rest starters, and get the young guys some PT. To do those things, we need to go up by three or four scores quickly. We need to avoid mistakes that give the Bulldogs a chance to stay in the game. That way, we can keep from allowing this game to be a confidence-breaking embarrassment to a team that seems to be finding itself. Moreover, I'm sure we'd all like to see Garcia rest his ribs and Reid McCollum show us what he can do.

2. Work on the Vertical Passing Game

Our aerial attack has improved from a year ago in that we're no longer throwing interceptions. However, Ole Miss keyed in on our lack of a true vertical game last week when they went man-to-man, and they had some success doing so. You can expect other teams with the appropriate personnel--such as 'Bama, Tennessee, and Florida--to try to do the same. To counter that, Stephen Garcia needs to work on his precision on deep throws and our receivers need to learn to use their height to their advantage instead of pushing off. This is particularly true for Tori Gurley and Jason Barnes, who are our go-to guys on the deep outs and jump balls. If we can improve this part of our game, we can start thinking about whether this team can compete for an SEC title. Until then, I'm thinking this team is Outback Bowl bound at best.

3. See What Some of Our Young Defensive Players Can Do

This is more or less a variation on number one. I think it's worth emphasizing, though, that with depth becoming a serious issue for our defensive front, we really need to start getting our backups ready in case we suffer more serious injuries.

Fun Fact

We've only played S. C. State once, so there's not much to share in terms of the history of this series. That first game will mainly be remembered as a particularly ugly outing that, in retrospect, presaged the downfall of the 2007 Gamecocks. Let's hope this one doesn't end up doing the same for this year's team.

Prediction

We should win this game by multiple scores regardless of how we play, so the question isn't so much whether we win but rather how we win. An low-mistake blowout is what we're looking for, while another 2007 will be taking a step back. I don't think, though, that this team is like the 2007 team, which had already shown signs of weakness by the time this game rolled around. Although it's been underwhelming on offense, this year's team has an efficient, workmanlike feel that should serve it well in this game. I'm not sure if you'll see us truly light the Bulldogs up, but I don't think you'll see us do anything embarrassing, either. Expect us to be up by 17-28 points by the half and for the second half to largely be devoted to giving the backups a chance to shine.