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South Carolina vs. Alabama: Keys and a pick

Oh, is this a tough game or something?

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks open their conference slate with a doozy this afternoon, welcoming the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide to Columbia for the SEC’s CBS Game of the Week. Pretty much no one is giving the Gamecocks a puncher’s chance in this one, but hey, this is college football and anything can happen, right? My own expectations are admittedly low, but I’ll nonetheless be watching for a few things.

The keys

Show some effort and passion. At the risk of coming off like some chucklehead on ESPN, I’d really like to see this team come out and play with a little pride. We’ve talked before about how, under Will Muschamp, this group seems to struggle with channeling emotion effectively and either comes out too flat or too fired up. I think most fans would agree that a loss — even a blowout — is much more palatable if it’s obvious the team gave its all and fought til the bitter end. Charleston Southern was a step in the right direction, but the fact remains that the Gamecocks looked listless and apathetic in their previous two games against Power 5 competition. This is going to be a long, tough season, so the last thing anyone wants to see today is South Carolina rolling over and giving up in Week 3.

For the love of god, don’t be afraid to try stuff. This ties in the previous point a bit, as today is the quintessential nothing-to-lose scenario where everything and the kitchen sink should absolutely be on the table. I realize this is a tough ask of an extremely conservative coaching staff, but you can’t hope at even sniffing an upset if you’re going to punt in your own territory, avoid calling trick plays, and so on. Sure, some fans are gonna be salty if we try a fake field goal and it gets blown up immediately, but folks will be even saltier if there’s no creativity on display today.

Be willing to get some new faces in there. This also calls back to the previous point, because sometimes you don’t know what you have in a player until he’s on the field. Is Kevin Harris the next big thing, or did he just have a field day against an FCS team? I don’t know, but why not give him a chance to answer that question? Competition-wise, this is obviously the polar opposite of the Charleston Southern game, but the scenario might similarly allow for newer and younger guys to get some run and experience. That’s never a bad thing, especially when it can also allow you to keep your starters out of harm’s way.

The pick

This is a tough one, guys. As some of y’all have pointed out, this could range anywhere from total flaming disaster to surprisingly competitive (gonna hold off on using the term “moral victory” here). I called for 45-10 Alabama in another post and I think I’m going to stick with that; maybe 45-17 if some things break right on special teams, with a big defensive play, or Bama calls off the dogs early.