The meat grinder of the rest of the SEC schedule awaits, but first the South Carolina Gamecocks get an opportunity to catch a breather when the Troy Trojans come to town tomorrow afternoon. With USC still smarting from a tough loss to Kentucky, and any hopes of a five- or six-win season looking dim, this is yet another contest that could set the tone for the remainder of the year. Win, and at least some faith and confidence is restored; lose, and...well, I’m not going to contemplate what comes next there unless I have to!!
Who are these guys? The Trojans hail from the Sun Belt Conference, and have a three-game history with the Gamecocks that dates back to 2004. South Carolina won all three meetings, and most recently posted a 69-24 victory in 2010.
What have they been up to lately? Troy is 2-2 (0-1) and coming off a 29-16 loss to Louisiana-Monroe. The Trojans also took a 21-13 L to Liberty, but have picked up wins against Southern (55-3) and Southern Miss (21-9). Here’s something, though: Troy was a 23.5-point (!) favorite against ULM last week, so as much as USC fans feel like an egg was laid against Kentucky (and it was, don’t get me wrong), that’s a whole other level of Yikes.
What happens when the Gamecocks have the ball? Four games in and we’re still figuring that out, which isn’t great! So far, this offense has shown itself to be stagnant, boring to watch, and fairly predictable as well. What’s most concerning is the lack of ability to run the ball, despite having most of last season’s personnel in addition to some promising play from the likes of Juju McDowell and ZaQuandre White. Wide receiver continues to be a glaring concern for the Gamecocks, and Luke Doty is clearly still getting up to game speed. I don’t really know what the answer is here, but South Carolina flat out needs to start executing. I’m not giving Marcus Satterfield a pass, but it’s admittedly hard to judge how much of these problems are schematic when guys aren’t catching passes that hit them in the chest and letting defenders breeze through the line untouched. Troy’s strengths lie in its defense, so the Gamecocks can’t expect to sleepwalk here.
What happens when the Trojans have the ball? Well, would you look at that — it’s our long-lost twin! Troy’s offense has been similarly offensive, with the Trojans especially struggling to get a ground game going (127th nationally in rushing yards, just 75 per game), and checking in at 104th in total offense. (Granted, South Carolina is 116th, although against better competition.) This game could be a defensive slugfest.
What are we wearing? Nothing interesting ever again, apparently. Yes, I’m bitter that Beamer clearly just wants to wear the two (2) primary combinations from the Spurrier era and call it a day. Will we see actual-school-color black represented in our uniforms at some point in the future? Who knows!
How are we feeling about this? I’m sure I’m not just speaking for myself when I say the Kentucky loss was enormously deflating. This is a game South Carolina can and should win, but it’s hard to go into this one with any measure of confidence. I suspect it will largely play out similar to the East Carolina game (though hopefully without any need for last-second heroics): solid, promising defense plus sputtering, incoherent offense and a general lack of playmakers asserting themselves. Who knows, though — there’s always a chance this could be a coming-out party (and yes, the nightmare scenario is on the table as well). Troy is just not the type of “cupcake” team this squad has shown it can steamroll.