Here's What The Gamecocks Need Today

This one is not going to be easy. If you had a great feeling going into the Georgia game, chances are you are having just the opposite feeling going into this Alabama game. We'll try to explain why plus we'll share exactly what it is going to take for South Carolina to win this game today ...

Many felt it prior to the Georgia game. All it would have taken was for one or two plays to have gone differently and the Gamecocks would have come away with a big upset win in Athens.

On the other hand Alabama almost lost to Southern Mississippi last week at home. It took a miracle play at the end for the Crimson Tide to pull it out.

The 'week-before-games' never matter in SEC football. Never.

This is the home conference opener for Carolina and their head man in charge, Steve Spurrier. Alabama comes into the Cock Pit of Williams-Brice loaded with tradition and the promise that their propation days are now long behind them . They are poised to return to their glory days.

Both teams, both coaches and both sets of fans, seem to have a lot riding on this game.

Alabama has more talent. They are bigger and more physical. That is a fact of the matter. We do however contest the claim that Bama has more or better skill players than the Gamecocks. To the contrary, after viewing hours of film of both teams and doing head to head comparisons, we are convinced that Carolina has more overall team speed and more talented skill players than the team from Tuscaloosa.

Steve Spurrier is going to have to try to get his running game on track today and that is going to be a very difficult task to accomplish. Still, he has to give it a good old college try if he hopes to keep Bama honest enough to get a passing game going to the extent that the Gamecocks will have a chance to pull off the upset.

Here's why.

It has already been established that Bama is the more physical of the two teams. They will control the clock and time of possession. So while this may be a tit for tat game early in the scoring column, it's that final ten minutes that matters and Bama will have the edge in that respect if they are about to mount a long drive or two in the second half against a tired South Carolina defense.

Spurrier is going to have to find a way to offset that somehow. That is one of the important keys to this game. He does not have the depth on defense to keep three units fresh and rotating in and out of this game against a rugged rushing attack presented by the Alabama offense.

But therein lies Bama's Achilles Heel. In truth there is some qjuestion as to whether or not Alabama's offesive line is any more proficient than Carolina's.

It will be the job of the South Carolina defense today, to confuse, baffle, bull rush and bluff their way into the heads of Sparky Wood's offense to the point where they force them to shoot themselves in the foot as much as possible. Illegal procedures, false starts, anything of that nature called against the Bama offense is going to help the Gamecock cause.

Of course simply lining-up and playing good old smash-mouth defense early will help too. But the problem is the offensive line will have a wind advantage, in terms of 'second wind,' by the time that proverbial fourth quarter rolls around. So Tyrone Nix and John Thompson are going to have to get into the heads of Sparky and his quarterback and that Bama offensive line today.

Both teams are going to try to throw their best punch early. If either blinks or wobbles, that team had better be prepared to weather the heat and make it back to its corner to regroup. Down by 14 points in this game is like having asthma and being told to hold your breath. Neither of these offenses are big and bad enough to mount a major comback against the two defenses we will see today.

There is another element to this game that could carry over and out onto the field. One that is difficult to put a finger on - a sense of urgency.

Both teams are feeling the pressure of a 'must win' game although it's only September and there are plenty of SEC games remaining on the horizon for both teams who are not even in the same division.

No one is exactly sure why.

Either way, the world is watching and Steve Spurrier is the offensive genius that he is so that is the next point of focus.

Blake Mitchell has never imagined as much pressure from the corners, and outside, as he is going to experience today. It is not that Alabama is that dominating, it is more of the sell-out at all costs strategy that we are expecting to see from them. Bama is going to be pinning their ears back and bringing it.

Mitchell is going to have to make sharp, concise decisions, check off into correct plays at the line of scrimmage and not make any major mistakes in the form of throwing errors or fumbles. Every mistake Mitchell might make is going to be magnified x10 in this game.

Naturally, the more mistakes by Bama's offense the better. What a difference an interception or two might make in the favor of the Gamecocks.

Special Teams will be the deciding factor in this game however. Who has the best field position after kickoffs and punts? Who makes the fewest mistakes on the return and return coverage teams? Who has the big play of the day on Special Teams?

Who converts the big breaks into points. There can be no wasted opportunities today. We are talking field goals here. Long ones.

This game between South Carolina and Alabama has all the makings of a classic battle between two teams who have somehow found themselves crossing at the same juncture on the roads to college football's elite. The Crimson Tide is trying to find their way back while the Carolina Gamecocks are trying to find their way their for the first time.

One major plus in South Carolina's favor today will be the partisan Gamecock crowd in a close game. They will be out there providing plenty of vocal support for their Spurrier led football team. Will it be enough to push the Gamecocks over the hump?

This one will be more hard-fought than the Georgia game.

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