Published October 31, 2011 - 9:50am
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Ninth in the BCS standings with two more games against Top 12 teams.
The South Carolina Gamecocks are still very much alive in the race for an at-large BCS berth to the surprise of the national media who picked Steve Spurrier’s team to flounder after Marcus Lattimore’s knee injury.
Do I think the Gamecocks make a BCS bowl? That’s the bigger question.
After Saturday’s 14-3 win in Knoxville – only the second victory ever at Neyland Stadium – the 10th-ranked Gamecocks have now won a school-record six consecutive true road games dating back to last season. South Carolina’s pass defense is still the Gamecocks’ premier strongpoint and true freshman Brandon Wilds showed doubters that the offense can still run the football without Lattimore.
But like I said in the preseason, South Carolina’s BCS hopes fall on the quarterback. This time, it’s not Stephen Garcia. Connor Shaw improved to 4-0 as a starter this weekend but didn’t have the gaudy numbers he enjoyed in his first SEC start against Kentucky. In fact, over the last two games, Shaw hasn’t had the “ooh-ahh” completions down field and the coaching staff doesn’t seem to have lasting confidence in passing situations in the sophomore from Flowery Branch, Ga.
With that being said, Shaw made enough plays at Tennessee to be effective including a nifty touchdown pass on 4th-and-1 inside Tennessee’s 30-yard line that put the Gamecocks on the scoreboard in the second quarter.
The “Win Anyway” mentality is continuing as the heartbeat of this football team, a leadership-driven squad talented enough to win out. But with a road game at Arkansas looming and a home bout with high-powered Clemson, it’s tough to predict the Gamecocks can finish 11-1.
Saturday’s game at Arkansas, in my opinion, is for the SEC East title for South Carolina. A win in Fayetteville gives the Gamecocks a leg up on Georgia even though most experts think the Bulldogs have the East on lock. South Carolina would then have to beat Florida in Columbia to stamp a return trip to Atlanta. With the way the Gators are playing on offense, the Gamecocks would likely be 8.5 to 9, perhaps double-digit favorites.
Bruce Ellington should be back to full strength this week after seeing limited action against Tennessee and South Carolina’s offense needs him. The big plays have been lacking this season and Ellington gives the Gamecocks a chance to go the distance on each touch. We’ll have a better idea of just how good this South Carolina team has become around 11 p.m. Saturday night.
Before kickoff, we’re all rooting for Auburn to knockoff Georgia.