The South Carolina Gamecocks are back in the win column and their bowl hopes are back on life support, needing to take another critical step this weekend when the giant-slaying Appalachian State Mountaineers come to Columbia. I truly don’t understand why USC’s administration signed off on this, but well, here we are — and this is how the GABA crew sees it all going down.
Kody: Just when we finally got rid of a pain-in-the-ass “cupcake” from North Carolina (aka ECU), we add another to our schedule — and one that has an even more distinguished resume. The Mountaineers have already dispatched the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill this season, and so won’t be intimidated for one bit to come into Williams-Brice. The good news: App isn’t invincible, as Georgia Southern got them a couple weeks ago in Boone. However, App is coming off a bye, so the Gamecocks will need to come prepared — especially since that win against Vanderbilt, while technically a blowout, was not exactly an inspired performance. I think USC comes away with the W here, but I can absolutely see it being a nail-biter or at least frustratingly close until the final minutes — and this will also depend on how healthy guys like Rico Dowdle, Tavien Feaster, and Shi Smith are. With a spread that has the Gamecocks favored by 4.5ish, I’ll say 28-21 USC. Bowl hopes and the perception of this program depend on it.
Matt: I’m going to talk less about analysis and more about Carolina football with this one. I know I’m just chasing a storyline here, but it feels like whatever could possibly hurt the most or play with our emotions the most is always what happens. It’s like whenever the fans get the slightest bit of hope (ex. Georgia), this team tears our hearts into shreds just a few weeks later (*cough* *cough* TENNESSEE *cough*). If that trend were to continue, Carolina would win versus App State to give the fans hope of a bowl game just to lose the next two in closer than expected fashion. Now considering actual gameplay, USC played very average against a below average Vanderbilt team. They now have a much greater foe in Appalachian State at home. They also beat UNC, the team that beat the Cocks week one. The crowd will be there, the running game will be there, the defense will (most likely) be there, and the only question mark is the offense. With the Mountaineers being a team that throws the football pretty well, they play to this team’s weakness. They aren’t exactly inept in the rushing department either. I am predicting a close 27-24 victory and a very stressful two more games to come.
Adam: App State will be fielding a lot of juniors and seniors that have won a lot of games. App State is a great program and, unlike the Gamecocks, they are a team that has been ranked this season. As previously stated, App State beat a team that South Carolina could not. All that said, App State stands between the Cocks and bowl eligibility - and that will be a major issue for App State this week. Despite the probable absence of Feaster on Saturday night, Rico Dowdle and Coach Brown’s loaded arsenal of weapons should be able to make noise on the ground. Bryan Edwards is a mismatch against whoever he plays, so if he isn’t the one making a splash this week then you can count on some big-play opportunities from Shi Smith, health permitting. There has been a cacophony of negative talk from fans about this team and whether or not their head coach should be out of a job come December. I, frankly, think that much of that talk is silly, but those grumbles would certainly get louder if South Carolina were to drop one to a Sun Belt team at home, at night. I do not see that happening. The Gamecocks and their amazing group of seniors will come through for Coach Boom and deliver a much needed fifth win...30-14.
Katie: [insert Eternal Sports Optimist we will win! prediction here] (but seriously please don’t lose this game)