The South Carolina Gamecocks get their first true test of the 2021 season when they travel to Greenville, N.C., to face East Carolina. The Pirates are a familiar foe, and while they aren’t the giant-killers they’ve been in seasons past, they’re always still an upset-minded bunch. The Gamecocks have gotten good news on the injury front with quarterback Luke Doty and running back Kevin Harris, but most are still fearing a battle with ECU. Here’s how the GABA gang is feeling about things:
Kody: Much like how Vegas seemingly can’t get a read on this one, I can’t either. East Carolina has fallen off a cliff ever since the bizarre decision to move on from iconic coach Ruffin McNeill, but it’s still difficult to view them as a pushover. I hesitate to take too much away from their loss to App State, too, because..well, we all know why, I don’t need to say it!! That being said, I think it’s hard to overstate how important getting both Doty and Harris back will be for the Gamecocks, and it could very well be the difference-maker in this one. I’m gonna go ahead and call this a must-win for South Carolina, because a fine performance against Eastern Illinois ultimately doesn’t mean much, and as a new coach, Shane Beamer could use a credibility-boosting win that assures everyone we’re on the right track. Losing to a worse-than-average ECU -- even in a rebuilding year, even on the road -- would be a special kind of deflating. I’m gonna go with USC 21-13 in an ugly one that probably has fans wailing but also relieved. I’d love to be proven wrong and see South Carolina roll, but it’s probably too soon to expect a showing like that (and I’m still working through Muschamp Era trauma).
Sawyer: This is genuinely the most difficult game of the year to predict for me. I feel like it would be so much easier if the game was in Columbia on Saturday, but unfortunately it is not. Just to make things worse, we are only one game into the season so it's hard to predict anything right now. Defensively, the Pirates were horrible last Saturday against App State, but the offense did not look bad. If not for a couple of penalties, they would have scored more points. Most Gamecock fans should know that this is not a walk-through game. Even though my gut is telling me this will be a close game, I really think the Gamecocks will show out Saturday. I think that USC is just too fast and physical for the Pirates. There is no way the ECU offensive line can handle blocking Burch and Pickens. There is no way they can stop Kevin Harris and the rest of our backs (which is the deepest RB room in the country prove me wrong). I see the Gamecocks winning this game 34-20. Watch Harris and Z White both have 100 yards on Saturday.
Matt: I get that East Carolina is a school with a big name – especially around Columbia – with a history of success, but I can’t see a team that struggles in the AAC competing with an SEC school (except Vanderbilt of course). The Pirates haven’t been to a bowl game since 2014 while competing against lesser competition than USC year after year. The thing with Appalachian State (ironically East Carolina’s latest opponent) when South Carolina played them two years ago was they were good, the Gamecocks were bad and it was still a competitive game. Home or away, I can’t see a team that hasn’t had real success in years hanging in this one even in year one of the Beamer era, especially when their apparent weakness (run defense) is USC’s strength (running). Listen, I’m not calling for a massacre; I’m just calling for a comfortable victory by the score of 31-14. If South Carolina blows this game, I think it’s already time to hit the panic button on the season.
Katie: As I embark on another season as GABA’s Resident Sports Optimist, I feel pretty good about being right with my prediction for a win this week. I’m going to echo the guys and say this seems like a pretty clear-cut victory for USC, given what each team is bringing to the table. The Beamer era has a lot of good vibes already, but since these are the Gamecocks, this one feels like if they don’t get off to a hot start and roll, it could be a battle that’s closer than we’d like and causes stress we could all do without on a Saturday afternoon. I would love to see a repeat of last week in the score department, but it seems unlikely that Carolina will pull off two blowout shutouts in a row, so I’ll be happy with any score as long as it involves us being on top.
DC3: This is a game that could very well set the tone for the future trajectory of Carolina football. Not that I’m overly optimistic this week, because I’ve promised myself to not be so until proven wrong by results, but more so that I’m very aware of the specter of Gamecock historical achievements relating to snatching defeat from the claws of victory. Holton Ahlers, while he has a slew of receivers that could potentially threaten our much-discussed defensive secondary, has some very apparent accuracy issues throwing the football. The Gamecocks for the first time in what seems like forever have an offensive line unit that doesn’t make you want to breathe into a wet paper bag every time the ball is snapped. What this SHOULD look like? A hot start for the Gamecocks that eventually turns into death by a thousand papercuts from the running game that makes short work of a very one dimensional ECU offense. What this will probably end up being? A series of fits and starts that is going to drive us nuts as the Gamecocks suffer through a nail biter in a classic ‘look-ahead’ game prior to heading down to Jawja for a tightly-expected butt whooping.
Good guys 38 - Pirate Team 28