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My God, a Freshman!

The most astonishing part of our win over Alabama was the performance of the Carolina running game.  Before sitting out a series after banging his funny bone, Marcus Lattimore was on pace to become the first back in over three years to break the 100 yard barrier against a defense a week removed from turning a potentially competitive game [with Florida] into a suffocated and forgone conclusion.  Lattimore still wracked up 93 yards, or 29 more than the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and his widely acclaimed backup combined. 

His performance against the reigning SEC and national champs could be a prelude to a huge second half for the freshman from Duncan.  Lattimore is already on pace to break South Carolina freshman records for rushing yards (848, Thomas Dendy), total yards (1143, Sidney Rice), TD's (13, Rice), and points (Collin Mackie, 113).  However, a look at the schedule reveals that Lattimore could potentially put up even better numbers over the next seven games.

The Gamecocks have already faced the #2, 3, and 5 rushing defenses in the SEC.  Even Southern Miss, the out of conference tune up, is currently 11th in the nation against the run. 

The SEC teams left on our schedule are the five worst running defenses in the conference.  The Gamecocks also have non-conference games with Troy and Clemson.  In case you missed the riveting drama in the ACC this past Saturday, the Tigers just lost to the North Carolina JV squad.

Side by side, there is a stark difference in the teams we have already faced, and the teams to come.

Opponent YPG NCAA Rank Average YPC
Southern Miss 92 11 3.1
Georgia 111 24 3.03
Auburn 95.7 14 2.79
Alabama 102.5 17 3.34
Past Opponents' Average 100.3 16.5 3.07
Kentucky 190.3 97 4.8
Vanderbilt 183.8 93 4.14
Tennessee 153.5 69 4.08
Arkansas 134.6 43 3.47
Florida 117.8 34 3.66
Troy 136.4 43 4.08
Clemson 163.2 77 3.94
Future Opponents' Average 154.2 65.1 4.02

The remaining opponents allow 1.5 times as many yards per game as the D-I teams we have played to date, and almost an entire extra yard per carry.  If Lattimore increases his production by the same factor, it would translate to roughly 135 yards per game and a 1400 yard season.  Not only would that shatter the South Carolina freshman record by over 500 yards, but it would be the third highest total in school history, bettered only by the junior and senior production of George Rogers. That turned out pretty well for Big George.

Tomorrow night in Lexington could be the launching pad for one of the greatest runs in South Carolina history for both the team and it's star running back.  I've been extremely cautious in the preseason and early going with the team, but it may be time for everybody in the Gamecock family to buckle up and enjoy the ride.