Today's roundtable features staff writer David Porter, Publisher Wes Mitchell and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock.
Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.
Let's get down to it...
ECU HAS HAD AN ANY TEAM, ANYWHERE TYPE MENTALITY WHEN SCHEDULING AND THEY'VE PULLED SOME UPSETS OVER THE YEARS – WHAT WOULD HAVE TO HAPPEN SATURDAY NIGHT FOR THE PIRARES TO PULL AN UPSET?
PORTER: Several things have to happen for ECU to pull off the upset. Dominique Davis has to have a big game. Against the better competition in 2010, Davis was turnover prone. ECU doesn't stand much of a chance if they turn the ball over. Likewise, they must force the Gamecock offense into several turnovers, and they must find a way to contain Marcus Lattimore.
MITCHELL: Let's be honest, this is a team that South Carolina should beat. But that doesn't mean it's impossible for the Pirates to pull the upset. ECU will need to score a couple of times early to put some pressure on the South Carolina offense and then get a turnover or two on defense to give what has been a bad unit some confidence. The Pirates should rack up some yards, but they'll need to put it in the end zone every opportunity they can.
LOHD: For ECU to win, USC would have to beat themselves by turning the ball over four times and not converting TD's in the redzone. Also USC's secondary would have to get picked alive. Don't see any of that happening but that is the worst case.
LIFE: East Carolina will need that offense clicking on all cylinders. Dominique Davis is a dual- threat quarterback and is the leading returning rusher from last season as well. If he limits his mistakes and finds a way to make big plays then he gives the Pirates a big chance for the upset. The defense will also have to find a way to slow down the USC rushing game. The Pirates gave up on average 226.7 yards from last season and switched to a 3-4 defense in 2011. A learning curve is expected and coming out of the gate slow against Marcus Lattimore is not the way you want to start the season.
MUCH WAS MADE ABOUT THE FACT USC DOESN'T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE ECU DEFENSE – WHAT TYPE OF GAME PLAN DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE FROM THE GAMECOCKS' OFFENSE?
PORTER: I think the Gamecocks come out pretty conservatively in the beginning. Expect a few Lattimore runs and a few safe passes. As the coaching staff gets a feel for what the ECU defense is doing they will start opening it up and take more chances. Or just give it to Lattimore 30 times if necessary.
MITCHELL: I'd think it would be fairly conservative. Shaw throws the deep ball well and that's actually a pretty safe pass so maybe one of those. But other than that, I'd expect Lattimore up the middle and that quick WR screen that has been a staple of the offense. That should give the coaches a chance to realize what the Pirates are up to.
LOHD: The game plan will center on establishing the run early and opening up the passing game. Look for the USC running backs to get a healthy dose of run plays and the Gamecocks try to wear ECU down while controlling the clock.
LIFE: I expect the Gamecocks to try and utilize Marcus Lattimore early to establish the physical presence. Let the ground game take control early and move the ball to get in a rhythm. Get ECU to anticipate the run and then hit them with the long ball to Alshon Jeffery or Damiere Byrd off a play-action play. Give their defense fits with moving players in motion. I wouldn't mind the "Wildcat" formation with Bruce Ellington making an appearance either.
THERE'S BEEN TALK ALL PRESEASON ABOUT THE DEPTH AT WR – HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE WR ROTATION TO LOOK THE FIRST GAME? WHO, NOT NAMED ALSHON, HAS THE MOST GRABS? (AGAIN, JUST IN THIS GAME)
PORTER: I think Alshon is obviously going to be on the field a lot, but I think you could see quite a rotation between six or seven receivers at the other spots. It's hard to say who's going to get the most playing time until the game gets going, and I'm not even sure Steve Spurrier, Jr. knows who will play a lot and who won't. I'm going to go with Jason Barnes getting the most grabs behind Alshon.
MITCHELL: I think you'll see a lot of Ace Sanders and Damiere Byrd on top of obviously the starters. If the Gamecocks get up big you'll see everybody. I'd also expect to see the wildcat a little with Bruce Ellington running the show just to give Georgia something else to think about. I'll take Ace as being the leading receiver not named Alshon.
LOHD: I feel they all get some looks and a catch here and there. But to the question of who gets the most catches behind Alshon, got to go with Damiere Byrd. They will find ways to get him the ball so he can
LIFE: The WR rotation should be mainly Alshon Jeffery, DL Moore, Jason Barnes, and Ace Sanders. I think they mix in Damiere Byrd, DeAngelo Smith, and Bruce Ellington. It will be hard to get Lamar Scruggs and Nick Jones in the mix with these other players.
I think the wide receiver with the most catches other than Alshon will be Ace Sanders. I really think he's done a fabulous job this offseason and seems to be even faster than before. He was routinely beating his defender in one-on-one drills and showcased nice hands all during the
ECU'S PASSING GAME VS THE GAMECOCKS' SECONDARY – HOW DO YOU EXPECT THE GAMECOCKS SECONDARY TO PERFORM AGAINST THE STRENGTH OF THE PIRATES?
PORTER: I think the secondary might struggle a little bit. With a few guys out and the health of Akeem Auguste still up in the air, depth will be an issue against a pass-happy offense. The key is going to be the big plays. As long as they don't blow assignments and give up big plays, they should be okay.
MITCHELL: It won't be just on the secondary. Short passing attacks like ECU uses require all 11 defenders to find a way to affect the receivers. The Pirates will get their yards, USC just needs make them earn everything and make receivers pay for going over the middle.
LOHD: USC's secondary is going to be tested all game long. I think ECU has a chance to throw up to 50-60 passes in this one and the Gamecocks secondary will have to find a way to keep the Pirates at bay through the air. The starters are all talented and will be able to cover and keep up with these ECU receivers. The depth, due to some suspensions and injuries, cause a bit of concern if the Gamecocks get winded from this quick tempo offense. I do think we'll see a sharper performance from the secondary than we did most of 2010 but that doesn't mean ECU still won't put up some decent numbers.
LIFE: USC's secondary is going to be tested all game long. I think ECU has a chance to throw up to 50-60 passes in this one and the Gamecocks secondary will have to find a way to keep the Pirates at bay through the air. The starters are all talented and will be able to cover and keep up with these ECU receivers. The depth, due to some suspensions and injuries, cause a bit of concern if the Gamecocks get winded from this quick tempo offense. I do think we'll see a sharper performance from the secondary than we did most of 2010 but that doesn't mean ECU still won't put up some decent numbers.
PORTER: I think it may stay pretty close early on, but once the Gamecock offense figures out the new Pirate defense they will begin to pull away. Carolina wins 38-17
MITCHELL: ECU gives USC trouble early. But the Gamecocks pull away late. 49-20 USC.
LOHD: USC 34 ECU 17
LIFE: My score prediction is South Carolina wins by a score of 38-20. I think this ECU passing attack will be able to get to the Gamecocks late in this game and provide a few scores to make it closer than it appears but Marcus Lattimore will put up some big numbers for USC and they will set the tone early and often to come away with a solid season opening victory.