As part of our ongoing public service to bring you, the Razorback fan, the best and most in-depth information about the Hogs and their opponents, we like to invite our fellow bloggers over to our little corner of the Internet to give us the scoop on their teams.
This week, we're pleased to present the wit and wisdom of Gamecock Man from the South Carolina blog Garnett and Black Attack. Many thanks to him for his time and insights. Now read on to get his take on, among other things, how satisfied Gamecock fans are with the Steve Spurrier era and which SEC coach he would most like to hit the road with:
1. The Gamecocks have had some late-season fades under Spurrier. In the aftermath of the UT loss, do you feel like another swoon is in the works, or do you think the team will rebound and finish the season strong?
It's hard to say. I think this team is better than last year's team, even if younger. While we may have looked a lot like last year's team in the UT performance, for the most part this team hasn't been one to commit lots of turnovers, which was the difference in that game. That wasn't the case for the 2007 and 2008 teams, which won lots of games early on but often looked extremely shaky in doing so. In that sense, I think this team is ready to finish strong. I also like the vibe around the team more this year; chemistry seems to be better, so there's hope that the guys will band together and play hard from here on out.
That said, the schedule is still a tough one. We'll be underdogs in all remaining unless Clemson collapses between now and then, and our youth and lack of depth is going to become more of a problem as the season goes down to the wire. That could mean that, even if we play well, we could still lose all or most of our remaining games.
I should say that I think this weekend's game is perhaps our most important of the year. This team needs to prove to itself that it's capable of transcending its history and defects by finishing strong. That has to start in Fayetteville.
2. Quarterback Stephen Garcia has taken a big leap forward this year. What are the reasons for his improvement, and how excited about his future at South Carolina are you?
Although some may have expected Garcia to continue to struggle this year, I think most reasonable football fans could have seen his improvement coming. Last year, Garcia was thrown into an unfavorable situation due to the struggles of the more experienced Gamecocks quarterbacks. He had very little significant practice experience, and his knowledge of the playbook and decision-making abilities were far below what one would expect of a redshirt freshman. This became apparent as the season wore on and opposing teams realized that all you had to do was fluster Garcia with a blitz and you could count on him to make mistakes.
After having a full spring training and autumn practice session going into this year, Garcia has had enough preparation to allow him to take advantage of his considerable natural abilities. He still has some work to do, but he's well on his way to being a very good SEC quarterback. Gamecocks fans are stoked about his potential. We have him for two more years, and he, Alshon Jeffrey, and Tori Gurley will be a formidable passing trio as they mature. That is, of course, if we can ever find a good offensive line.
3. Tell us which Gamecocks are poised to have big games on Saturday. Which players will Hog fans be cursing?
Well, Garcia, for one. If you can pressure Garcia, you might be able to slow him down, but he'll find his receivers if you give him too much time. I also expect our receivers--Alshon Jeffrey, Moe Brown, Tori Gurley, Jason Barnes, Weslye Saunders--to present lots of matchup problems for your secondary.
On the other side of the ball, I expect Ellis Johnson to rush Ryan Mallett aggressively. Eric Norwood and Clifton Geathers are the guys you'll have to watch out for there.
4. Steve Spurrier is in the fifth season at South Carolina. So far, what are the fans' feelings about his tenure - is he living up to expectations.
I don't think Spurrier is living up to expectations. I think that while most reasonable Carolina fans didn't expect him to come in and just start winning SEC titles, most of us did think we would have achieved greater success so far than we actually have. A nine- or ten-win season or two, consistently playing well against the better teams in the conference, and taking the Clemson rivalry were common expectations, and not unreasonable ones, I don't think.
However, I don't think most reasonable fans have given up on the guy -- yet. This isn't to say that there isn't a large portion of the community that sees him as an abject failure. There is. However, the more reasonable among us realize that this isn't an easy job and that Spurrier, while he's yet to really break through, has been relatively successful in Columbia when judged by our historical standards. He consistently has us bowl eligible, and there was a time when just getting that sixth win was a major success for the Gamecocks. Expectations are higher now, though, and even the more reasonable among us expect some form of real success soon. We would like to see Spurrier manage to avoid the late-season collapse this year, and, with a more experienced team, we'd like to see the Gamecocks compete for bigger things next year. If Spurrier can't do that, I think that even the more reasonable fans will eventually give up on him.
5. You may not know this, but Spurrier came in first in our prestigious ranking of SEC coaches with whom we'd most like to take a road trip. So, we'll ask you: Which SEC coach would you most like to take a road trip with? Which one would you least like to travel with?
Hmm. Don't shoot me for saying this, but I'd probably choose to go on a roadtrip with Houston Nutt. The guy seems to have a vibrant personality, and I would assume he knows how to party. Spurrier would probably come in second. I'd undoubtedly least like to travel with Urban Meyer, who, besides being a disgrace to the game, seems kindof lame in general. I mean, do you think he ever lets go? He'd probably be calling recruits instead of partying with the boys.