Anthem Roundtable: The Citadel

In this edition of the Anthem Roundtable, the crew previews The Citadel game. Look inside as David Porter, Wes Mitchell, the Leftover Hot Dog blog and the Life of a Gamecock blog answer burning questions about this weekend's matchup.

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...

Let's go ahead and get this one out of the way. Georgia-Kentucky kicks off 21 minutes after South Carolina… We all know what that one means – Anyone willing to predict the upset or a close game?

PORTER: Barring the first, second, and third team Georgia players missing this game, it is not going to be close. Not going to be much of a game. Georgia rolls in this one.

MITCHELL: I do think Kentucky will keep it within the 31 point spread but that won't be near enough for the Cats to beat Georgia.

LOHD: I wish I could be so bold but just don't see how it could happen. Kentucky sucks in football in 2012, When you take that and combine it with how Georgia is playing right now, well an upset is extremely unlikely this time.

LIFE: I think it's pretty safe to say this one is in the bag for the Georgia Bulldogs. Kentucky has no hope of competing with UGA in this game. They've got no playmakers on offense and defense just can't hang with Aaron Murray and Orson Charles from Georgia. Georgia and USC got to play the exact same SEC schedule this year except for they had Ole Miss and we had Arkansas. I think that explains why they will end up as SEC East champions.

Now that that's out of the way. Obviously, winning the game is objective No. 1, but what are some other goals this team needs to meet Saturday leading into the Clemson game?

PORTER: Obviously it would be nice to get the passing game going, but it appeared that the last time Carolina faced a weak opponent they did just that in the win over Kentucky. To me, getting out of this game healthy is goal number one, particularly on the defensive line. With all the cut-blocking that goes on in the option attack, the Gamecock defensive front has to watch their legs. Another goal would be to get the starters off the field early in the third quarter. Put the game away and get the younger guys in to get some experience. Lastly, just continue to gain confidence. Play well in all phases of the game and enter what many will say is the most important game of the season with the most confidence it has had all year.

MITCHELL: While overall team health has to be the other objective, getting the passing game going would be a nice step going into next week's rivalry game. The South Carolina offensive line may have some success blocking Clemson in the passing game if they have confidence going into that game.

LOHD: In my mind, there are two other goals besides a win and those are: escape injury-free and get reps for other players. The Gamecocks do not need anyone hurt going into Clemson as they need full team strength for that game. South Carolina also should use this game to get some reps for other players and allow them to mature as a football player.

LIFE: I think there are two major goals for this game. The first needs to be finding some kind of rhythm with the passing game. USC hasn't thrown for 200 yards since the Kentucky game at the beginning of October. This would be a great chance to give it a shot and see if they can throw it up and down the field. Be sure to target Alshon Jeffery and hook him up! He had more yards against UK than he has had the last four weeks combined. The second thing that needs to happen is give some backups some valuable playing experience. USC should be able to man-handle the Bulldogs with their starters and get a comfortable lead for the backups to get in the game. Letting younger and inexperienced players get time against a live opponent could help in the future and potentially as soon as next week against Clemson if needed.

The Navy offense gave South Carolina's defense fits for the better part of three quarters earlier this year. Will the defense be better equipped this time to slow down that pesky triple-option attack?

PORTER: The Citadel will not have quite the speed and athletic ability Navy had, but they will be close. Obviously, as Ellis Johnson said, having something to go back and look at will help the defense this time around. It took the defense nearly three quarters to get used to the option against Navy, so the coaching staff will definitely be hoping that does not happen again this week.

MITCHELL: The triple-option is always going to be a pain, but I think the defense will be a lot more comfortable facing it after actually experiencing what it's like to play a team that runs it to perfection. It's so hard to emulate the option that the defense appeared on it's heels for much of the first three quarters of the Navy game. I won't say it will be easy, but the defense should feel much more comfortable this week.

LOHD: Easy answer is yes. The main reason is the Citadel triple-option is by no means as effective as the Navy scheme. If you can control Navy then Citadel should seem like a walk in the park. The main reason for that is the level of athletes. USC should be able to attack the scheme, causing disruption and take advantage of some things when they have the ball. LIFE: The defense will be able to use the film from Navy to help slow down the Bulldog rushing attack. Citadel doesn't have the athletic talent that Navy has but this will still be a challenge for USC to play fundamental football. They made adjustments in the second half of the Navy game and I think they will be able to come out on defense and keep The Citadel in check for the majority of this football game. The Citadel has thrown for a total of 346 yards on the season. I think USC knows exactly what they need to do.

Many different things have contributed to the Gamecocks' offensive woes, particularly in the passing game – narrow it down, though, what is the single biggest thing they need to improve?

PORTER: Pass blocking. The Gamecocks have struggled all season protecting the quarterback. 10 games into the season you have to begin to think it is not going to get better. You can hope it will, but the coaching staff has to figure out a way to get the passing game going without having much time. Also, Connor Shaw has a tendency to run right as the receiver is opening up. He needs to be willing to stay in the pocket that extra second to find the open receiver.

MITCHELL: Got to be pass blocking particularly at the tackle spot. South Carolina needs to slow the rush on the edge and allow Connor Shaw to willingly step up into the pocket.

LOHD: Pass protection. The Gamecocks need to better their abilities to defend the opposing pressure on Connor Shaw. Amazing how the loss of Kyle Nunn hurt a lot of things. The Gamecocks offense has to have time to get the passing game going and that is something they have not had enough of. If USC can fix that then the sky is the limit due to the well-executed run game and the talent on the offense.

LIFE: Pass blocking seems to be the area we'll always go back to as the weakness for this USC offense. Connor Shaw doesn't have quite the time in the pocket that Stephen Garcia had in the first part of this season. The difference was Stephen couldn't hit his throws. We haven't really seen Connor throw it around much because of the inefficient play of the offensive line. If they can improve that then we should see a more balanced passing attack. I also think the USC wide receivers could work a little harder to get open at times when Connor has to scramble out of the pocket but I think the offensive line needs the most work.

Prediction time: Who has a big game?

PORTER: I'll go to the defensive side. I think Jadeveon Clowney will have a big game for Carolina. He may not fill up the stat sheet with tackles and likely will not pick up sacks, but I believe he will be around the ball all night. When the play comes to his side I look for him to force the quarterback to pitch it, and when the ball is on the other side I look for him to run the play down.

MITCHELL: I'll take Bruce Ellington. He's had a solid year and has contributed in many different ways. I think he has a nice game Saturday.

LOHD: Alshon Jeffery. Something tells me that USC will make a point to get him the ball a lot as he has a height (and talent) advantage in this game. Look for Shaw to do his best in targeting Alshon a lot.

LIFE: I think Ace Sanders could have a big game against The Citadel. He had the big catch last weekend against Florida and I think his speed could help create separation on the defensive backs from The Citadel. I think we'll see a nice game from him. My runner-up choice is Alshon Jeffery.


PORTER: I don't think the Gamecocks will score 40 points simply because of the option attack running the clock. I look for the defense to give up some yardage, but not give up a lot of points. Gamecocks will win easily, 38-14.

MITCHELL: I'll take 38-13 USC. The Citadel has to settle for a few field goals, USC moves the ball but has some offensive struggles as well. The game is never truly in doubt though.

LOHD: USC wins this game 34-10. The Gamecocks will not open it up too much especially once the lead is safe and the back-ups can play the majority of the second half.

LIFE: South Carolina wins easily 45-10. Gamecocks open up the passing game early and then just run right through The Citadel defense in the second half to close this game. Defense creates a turnover for a touchdown and special teams ends up with a big play as well.

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