East Carolina at No. 21 South Carolina
(Saturday, 7 PM ET, SEC Network)
THE SKINNY: Coach Ruffin McNeil and the Pirates, fresh off their second double-digit win season in program history, take their patented Air Raid offense into Williams-Brice Stadium against a defense that struggled mightily last time out. South Carolina’s averaging 52 points per game against East Carolina over its last two wins (2011 Charlotte; 2012, Columbia).
KEY PLAYER: East Carolina senior Shane Carden’s a highly-decorated quarterback with 59 career touchdown passes. He completed 70 percent of his passes in the Pirates’ season-opening win over North Carolina Central and flexed a wide-range of short, intermediate and long-distances throws. If Carden gets time (one sack last week), East Carolina believes it can flourish through the air.
WHAT TO WATCH: Senior wideout Justin Hardy’s an All-American candidate on the outside, the leader of a talented receiving corps for the Pirates who are capable of showcasing their athleticism against an inexperienced secondary nursing a bruised ego. The Gamecocks must get pressure with their four down linemen and play well on third down. Getting off the field vs. Texas A&M was nearly impossible and by the third quarter, South Carolina’s defense was gassed.
FINAL SAY: South Carolina’s had more than a week to absorb and think about what transpired in the opener, a litany of problems defensively that have been addressed in prep for East Carolina. A loss to the Pirates presents a doomsday scenario at 0-2 with no national ranking and Georgia approaching. Steve Spurrier’s hoping Game 1 was a fluke, but that won’t be decided until Saturday’s game against a quality non-league opponent is over and we’ve all had time to assess his team’s improvement.