Staff Predictions: Southern Miss

The staff predicts the score of the Southern Miss game. Look inside! Staff Predictions: Southern Miss
Paul Stewart - Staff Writer
The Gamecocks will move past offseason turmoil with a solid effort to start the year against the Golden Eagles. Stephen Garcia will show his experience at quarterback, but Connor Shaw will also make key contributions, especially running the ball. As I predicted earlier, I expect Marcus Lattimore to start with a splash and add two touchdowns, while I also look for Alshon Jeffery to get to the end zone as well.

The Carolina defense will stifle the USM offense as the front four dominates the game. Also, the Carolina special teams will look solid, highlighted by a couple of Spencer Lanning field goals.

South Carolina - 34
Southern Miss - 14
Jason Ross - Football/Recruiting Analyst
The Gamecock football team has had to live with an embarrassing Papa John's Bowl performance for 8 months now, with Coach Spurrier not allowing them for one minute to forget about it, but rather use it as motivation. They have also endured an ill-timed visit by the NCAA and the usual cast of doubters who say the Gamecocks will find a way to fall short of high expectations once again. The Gamecocks have historically struggled in season openers under Coach Spurrier and certainly that could happen again, but I feel there a few things working in the Gamecocks favor this year that are going to change that trend. Those four things are: Experience, Game Changing Offensive Talent, Opportunity, and Motivation.

Experience: The Gamecocks enter the 2010 season with one of the most experienced teams Coach Spurrier has had in his tenure at USC. More experience usually calms the nerves, it usually means the game slows down for the players, it usually means the players are more capable of playing as a team, and it usually breeds loftier standards and goals. All these things I feel will help the Gamecocks against the Golden Eagles on Thursday night and throughout the season.

Game Changing Offensive Talent: For the first time in the Spurrier era, you can legitimately look across the skill positions (QB, WR, RB) depth chart and truthfully say the Gamecocks have some players that have the potential to keep the defensive coaches on opposing teams up all night. Alshon Jeffery, Tori Gurley, Ace Sanders, Marcus Lattimore, Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Miles, and yes Stephen Garcia are going to give the Ole Ball Coach and arsenal he can do some serious damage with if they perform at the level they are capable of. One major hint for Gamecock fans that this is the case, is that Coach Spurrier recently said he is looking forward to coaching this season like he has his entire career. If that truly is the case when the Gamecocks take the field on Thursday night then that can mean nothing but good things for the Gamecocks.

Opportunity: There is nothing that gets a predator's juices flowing more than blood in the water, and that is how the Gamecocks need to view the SEC East this fall. Florida is replacing a lot of players from a team that had its way for several years now, including Mr. Everything Tim Tebow. Are The Gators Going to be horrible? No, but they certainly are more vulnerable. Meanwhile there is a lot of hype and talk coming out of Georgia heading into this season saying that the Bulldogs are back. Well, I don't know if that is exactly the case just yet. Relying on a Freshman QB and a newly installed 3-4 defensive package which you haven't recruited for is certainly a recipe for some early season growing pains, if not all year long. The Gamecocks get the Bulldogs early and at home where they have a chance to get an early leg up in the SEC East race. Finally, Tennessee looks to be headed for a humbling rebuilding year where the Gamecocks have a great chance to make a move in the traditional SEC East pecking order. All these things being what they are, the Gamecocks haven't had an opportunity like this in a long time, and that alone should keep them focused and hungry.

Motivation: The Gamecock football program has traditionally had to deal with all kinds of doubters and critics over the years, and this season is no different. Wanting to change that perception should be a huge motivation for the team this fall. One thing that should have ignited the fire in the Gamecocks belly this summer were the remarks of Larry Fedora, Head Coach of the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. Fedora made comments to the effect that his team was looking forward to coming to Columbia and beating the Gamecocks in front of a National TV audience, and that when they did, his team should walk across the field and shake the Gamecock's hands at the end of the game like they had no doubts they were going to win the game and that they were the better team. The Gamecocks get the chance Thursday night to make Coach Fedora think twice about what he said and prove they are the better team without a doubt on the field and most importantly the scoreboard. Motivation should be riding high when the Gamecocks run out of the tunnel to 2001 as it is for every season opener, but this game has a little extra meaning and edge to it because of some of the pre-season banter that has occurred. Look for that motivation to promote inspired and physical play early for the Gamecocks Thursday night.

These things being what they are, I think the Gamecocks are going to have a big night Thursday. I think they are going to exploit a very young USM offensive line that has four untested lineman and begin to assert their will on defense as the game wears on. I also think the Gamecocks are going to come out aggressive with a lot to prove on offense, and Coach Spurrier is going to be re-energized as he has the opportunity to draw up plays for his new found play makers. I also think the crowd (although it appears it won't be a sellout at this time) will feed of the energy and intensity of the team and really give the Gamecocks a substantial home field advantage. Gamecock fans have been longing for something to cheer for now for 8 months. I think the Gamecocks not only provide them that opportunity during the game, but after the game as well, as the Gamecocks send the Golden Eagles packing with a convincing win to start the season.

South Carolina - 38
Southern Miss - 10
David Porter - Beat Writer
The Gamecocks have been notorious for slow starts recently. I think that continues this season before the talent and depth and take over in the second half.

South Carolina - 31
Southern Miss - 14
Ryan Bethea - Photographer
Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw combine for 350 yards passing and Marcus Lattimore scores his first collegiate touchdown as South Carolina rolls to a 31-10 victory over Southern Mississippi. Despite a few missing links on the defensive side, including replacing All-American Eric Norwood, the Gamecocks' stout defense continues to be one of the top units in the SEC to start the 2010 season. Expect to see the Eagles give the home crowd a game early but a national television audience watches a deeper and more determined Carolina team pull away in the second half.

South Carolina - 31
Southern Miss - 10
Doug Jolley - Staff Writer/Insider
The baseball team won the national championship. The Head Ball Coach has been in a noticeable good mood several the final two weeks of practice. The players feel good about their team and it's chances. They want to put the controversies that dominated the summer behind them and make a statement. And that's exactly what the South Carolina team needs, is an opening game blowout that makes a statement to the SEC and the rest of the college football world that this Gamecock team is for real.

In the first five seasons under SOS, there has been exactly one Spurrier-esque blowout of the kind Gamecock fans envisioned when Spurrier came to town. The Southern Miss team is no La La U, but the Gamecocks should handle them and cover the 14 point spread with ease. If the Head Ball Coach is feeling good about this team, then I do too.

South Carolina - 35
Southern Miss - 14
Wes Mitchell
These optimistic predictions are making me want to close the gap on mine, but I will stick with what I've said all week. A banged-up and depleted defense gives up a big play here or there, and first games are always sloppy with some missed assignments. The surprise of the night is that the offense comes out clicking and looks a lot smoother than it has in the other season openers under Spurrier.

South Carolina doesn't show a dominant running game but is able to run it consistently enough to run some clock as South Carolina pulls away and escapes with a very familiar score to Gamecock fans!

South Carolina - 34
Southern Miss - 17

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