It's been a weird week. The sport of football has taken a back seat to the security of our everyday lives in the Midlands, and the appearance of a stuttering collegiate football team holding ownership to a 2-3 record and trending downward will merely serve as a three hour escape from recovery, rather than a weekly celebration of tradition and fanfare.
For three hours on Saturday afternoon Gamecocks throughout South Carolina are allowed to forget about the devastating flooding that swept over their home state and instead focus on football. We'll get to curse questionable play calls, scoff at missed tackles and philosophize how to stop the best running back in the nation. It'll be a beautiful three hours, no matter what the final score glares.
Here's three keys to the game that'll help the Gamecocks make the most of their unexpected trip to Baton Rogue.
1. Gang tackle. Head coach Steve Spurrier touched upon this in his weekly press conference when asked about schemes to stopping Leonard Fournette. The truth is, not one single player on the Gamecocks defense will be able to consistently bring down Fournette on his own. It'll be a true team effort to slow this guy down, and the Gamecocks defense will need to hone in on his legs and do their best to get him from below. The unit will need to swarm to Fournette and it'll be a team effort slowing him down. No one expects the Gamecocks defense to stop him, and it'll be almost impossible with him getting 20+ touches, but the more the defense fights together, the longer they'll hang in there against the Heisman front runner.
2. Some sort of resemblance of a running game. For the first time since his departure from campus, the Gamecocks are finally feeling the effect of a post-Lattimore team. Even before the Brandon Wild's rib injury, the Gamecocks were barley getting enough out of the ground game, and since his departure, things haven't gotten any better. Hopefully the Gamecocks get Wilds back this week. It'll surely take a little bit of the load off Perry Orth, who is making his second start as a Gamecock at QB. As opposed to LSU's one man attack, it'll be a running game by committee for the Gamecocks. Don't be surprised if you see Laurens native and walk-on Rod Talley. He had some almost success against Missouri catching a TD that was called back.
3. A pass rush. Arguably one of the biggest necessary improvements for the Gamecocks entering 2015, it just hasn't been where it needs to be yet. Sure there have been glimpses of improvement, especially during that season opener against the Tar Heels, but they currently rank tied for 72nd in the nation with nine total team sacks in 2015. The pass rush has shown glimpses, the front just hasn't been able to consistently bring pressure for four quarters. It's no secret the Tigers like to run the ball, therefore, the lineman don't practice as much on their pass protection, so it may be a chance for the Gamecocks defense to attack Tigers QB Brandon Harris when he does drop back. Harris has struggled with his accuracy this season, so the more hurried the better.
Vegas has the Gamecocks as 19.5 point underdogs. I think we'll hang tough in the first half, but will get worn down by the Tigers defense and running game and fall short of historic victory. I think we'll cover the spread, and will continue to pray for a miraculous win.