In the SEC, every game is crucial. With the first road game under our belt, concluding in the much-needed W, our young team has had the chance to acclimate to the pressure of an opposing crowd. This week, a struggling Mississippi State team is on the menu. With a heartbreaking loss to the Jaguars of South Alabama, Mississippi State is reeling. A win this week would be a major boost to South Carolina’s confidence in themselves, and further distance them from the memory of a 3-9 campaign.
As a life-long Carolina supporter, I understand the heartbreak our beloved Gamecocks can cause. We aren’t always used to having nice things, and skepticism surrounding this season is easily understood. However, we also have to realize that we don’t know what to expect. With a new coach, a new system, and a reinvented swagger, this certainly isn’t the same team we saw last year. And ignore the media when they bash our suspected “lack of talent” or when we are branded as the “worst team in the SEC.” I mean, heck, we’re first in the SEC right now! We’re currently undefeated! Maybe Perry Orth comes out of nowhere to be a (dare I say it) legitimately good quarterback!
But anyway, back to this week. Yes, Mississippi State has been very good the last couple of years. Yes, they’ve had consistently highly-rated recruiting classes. But the hero of Starkville, Dak Prescott, is in Dallas right now, prepping for his first NFL start. Quarterback Damian Williams? Sure, he had a decent game against South Alabama, but I’d like to think that our defense is significantly tougher than theirs. This is our first real test, as Mississippi State was projected to be better than Vandy this year. Again, these are projections, so there’s no real telling how good anybody will be until later on in the year. The way the offense gelled in the second half of last week’s game, I think we could definitely be looking to push the tempo and take more chances down the field earlier on in Saturday’s game. And last year’s Achilles heel, the secondary, definitely looks revamped, with corners Chris Lammons and Mark King looking like playmakers in the passing game. It’s surprising to be seeing the benefits of a defensive-minded coach so early on, but the changes from last year’s defense to this year’s are eye-popping. Forcing eight punts against a Ralph-Webb led offense? We didn’t force a punt until the second game last year. Much to the chagrin of most pundits, these South Carolina Gamecocks aren’t going down without a fight.
We’ve heard Will Muschamp use the phrase “Spurs Up” multiple times this offseason, but those spurs are looking mighty sharp already. We may only have one game on our resume so far, but eight wins is not out of the question. There’s a lot of optimism in the air, folks, and it’s not unwarranted.