3-4 sounds a hell of a lot better than 2-5, wouldn't ya say?
As the Gamecocks head to College Station for an afternoon tilt with the Aggies, you have to feel a little more optimistic than 16-point line favoring Texas A&M.
The Aggies are coming off a brutal two-game stretch that saw their division title hopes take a major hit with back-to-back losses to Alabama and Ole Miss. While the Gamecocks come to town two weeks after notching their first conference win of the season.
Momentum aside, I'll give you three quick reasons for optimism Saturday.
Over the past two games, A&M has turned the ball over seven (!) times.
Yes, Ole Miss and Alabama's defenses rank slightly higher (read: a lot, a lot higher) than the South Carolina unit, but watch those games and you'll see that not all of those turnovers can be attributed to defensive scheme or playmakers - many are A&M miscues and gaffes. Good news if you're a USC fan.
To complement the Aggies' suddenly turnover-happy offense, the Gamecocks return to the field after recording five turnovers against the Commodores two weeks ago. The Vandy offense does rank near the bottom in the nation in turnover margin, but we'll call it a wash since the South Carolina defensive unit is similarly ranked.
The turnover swing will be HUGE in this game. There's an opportunity for the Gamecocks to catch a break here. It's not a coincidence that the three games where USC won the turnover battle were their only three victories.
An Ugly, but Active Offense
Your Gamecocks, the same led by a former walk-on quarterback, hung 400+ yards of total offense on the nation's No. 22 ranked defense two weeks ago.
Perry Orth had his second straight 200+-yard day throwing the ball and Brandon Wilds eclipsed the century mark after missing three weeks of action. David Williams averaged 7.0 YPC and D.J. Neal had the best game of his young career.
Minor milestones, but don't discount what this means for the rest of the season.
With Orth improving, Wilds returning and Pharoh Cooper just being Pharoh Cooper, this offense may be equipped to hang with Kevin Sumlin's high-octane unit that torched the Gamecocks for 680 yards and 52 points a year ago.
Add in a new-look hurry up offensive scheme and a not-so-good A&M defense, and you might just have the recipe for an upset.
Interim and Unknown
In no way am I arguing Shawn Elliott is a better coach than Steve Spurrier. Rather, Spurrier's in-game approach was always somewhat predictable - we're going to do what we're going to do and try and stop us.
That won us a lot of games. It also cost us a couple too, when what we're going to do wasn't doing much, but we kept doing it anyway - or at least trying to.
The small sample size we have of this coaching staff and how they handle pressure/tight games has to be encouraging. Down at halftime, the team stepped up and got a much-needed W vs. Vanderbilt.
How will they respond down 10? Down 14? Down 21?
No idea. A&M may not know either.
Which also gives me a little glimmer of hope too. Maybe we'll see some fight and creativity out of an offense that's severely been lacking both for much of the year.