Let’s review South Carolina at their bye week:
First-Half Review: The Gamecocks got off to a very quick 6-0 start and were ranked #3 in the country, and after the 35-7 curb stomping against Georgia, it looked like the Gamecocks would be the team that would rival Alabama. However, the next two games resulted in road losses against LSU and Florida, and it became clear that South Carolina was a good team but not a great one. But in a game where USC had to take care of business against Tennessee, they did so with a 38-35 victory when Connor Shaw lit up the Vols’ defense for 356 yards and three touchdowns. South Carolina is the highest ranked two-loss team in the country at #8 in the BCS.
MVP: You look no further than Jadeveon Clowney for the team’s MVP. The freak of nature just may be the best defensive linemen we’ve ever seen in this conference, which has a history of producing NFL linemen. He had raw athletic talent last season as a freshman, but he’s combining his ability with technique. The combination is quite horrific for opposing offenses, as he seems to alter so many plays within the game. Against Tennessee, Clowney was kept at bay for almost four quarters, but with 1:08 left in the fourth, he forced a fumble against Tyler Bray and the game was over. He’s the biggest game-altering player in the country. He’s made 8.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in nine games.
Biggest Surprise: There are a couple different players you could look to for South Carolina as surprises, but one who has done a fantastic job is corner Jimmy Legree. Legree was more or less thrust into the lineup when Akeem Auguste went down with an injury in the preseason. Legree started just two games in 2011, and there were all kinds of questions surrounding the position, with only DJ Swearinger as the returning starter on the back end of the defense. However, Legree has done a very nice job, as he’s totaled 37 tackles, one tackle for loss and two interceptions for 104 return yards. He’s also tallied six pass breakups through nine games.
Stat To Note: The Gamecocks are fifth in the country with 30 sacks. Heading into the Tennessee game, they led the country with 29. Tennessee’s offensive line did a great job nullifying the pass rush, and that’s the first time that’s happened to USC this season. Four sacks separate them from Texas A&M for the most in the SEC.
Looking Ahead: The biggest hit of the season so far was Marcus Lattimore’s injury. Not only is he a dynamic player on the field, but all the players looked up to him off the field for leadership. Without Lattimore, the Gamecocks can beat Arkansas and Wofford with no problem. However, Clemson will be a tough game. But let’s not forget that USC was 5-1 after Lattimore went down last season, too, and they punched Clemson in the mouth 34-13. So, with a win over Clemson and some help along the way from other teams, Carolina could work their way back into the BCS bowl picture as an at-large 10-win team.
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE