Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Spurrier changing the focus to the final 4 games

The entire sports world took some time this week to show some deserved respect and kindness toward Marcus Lattimore.  This outpouring of emotion was a strong testimony about how good of a person #21 is outside of football as much as anything he has done on the field while in Columbia.  From Dabo to Les Miles to all sorts of athletes and coaches in other fields of play, it was really cool to see.   I have no doubt it touched the Gamecock star while he is beginning the healing process.  

But now it is time for Carolina to turn its focus to the final four games we have to play.  Lattimore wouldn’t have it any other way.  The best way we could honor him would be to play like he would if he were on the field.  

I honestly believe that was on Steve Spurrier’s mind when he took a good-natured jab at Dabo Swinney during Lattimore’s birthday celebration on the Horseshoe yesterday.  Sometimes coaches have to do things to make them the focal point to help change the subject.  No one understands this more than Dabo.  Last year, Swinney staged a pre-planned insane rant attacking the University of South Carolina and everything for which it stands.  When did this happen?  Right after Carolina had just mauled the Tigers in Columbia for the third straight season.  Yabble Dabble had to do this to distract his fan base away from the loss and channel their anger and passion away from him to the Gamecocks.  It didn’t even matter that the 5 minute plus rant was because of a quote that was falsely attributed to Steve Spurrier.  It did the job well and distracted the fans.  

So you’ll have to forgive me if I yawn at any faux “OUTRAGE” over Spurrier’s 1-liner about Swinney yesterday at the pep rally for #21.  At worst, it was maybe a tad forced but I seriously doubt anyone actually thinks there was malicious intent.  No, in my opinion this was just a verbal distraction to get USC fans focused on football again and it has worked beautifully.  

The media folks and twitterville all went bananas and Clemson will use this as bulletin board material and that’s all fine.  And expected.  Tiger fans can focus on one or two throwaway jabs from Spurrier and we’ll just keep playing that five-minute tape from the insane one heading into this year’s kickoff at Death Valley.  

None of that will affect the outcome of the game.  Granted, whichever team wins will have fans insisting that it did.  But outside of making the pregame debate a little zesty it won’t.  Once the ball is kicked off you will have two good teams showcasing the Palmetto State and that’s a good thing.  Clemson will likely be 10-1 and we will likely be 9-2.  Both teams will be in the top 10.  Great offense being tested by a great defense.  Strength against strength.  Should be a fun way to close the Thanksgiving weekend.  

In the meantime there is more football to play.  We have to find a way to stop our streak against the Hogs and avoid stubbing our toe against the Terriers and their funky offense.  Clemson has to beat I think Hammond, Wilson Hall and Calhoun Academy. ( J/K Tigger friends.  I can’t imagine Clemson letting teams that tough on the schedule.  J)  All kidding aside, let’s stop finding ways to be offended on both sides and just enjoy this rivalry with a little fun and good-natured trash talk.  

What a great time to be a Gamecock! 

Monday, October 29, 2012

CLAWS vs. PAWS Scoreboard Update - Week 9


The TIGERSWAG extends his lead over The COCK-A-BOOSTER.  The TigerSwag collect 10 point in his pick of the USC/Tennessee Game.  He picked USC to win the game but not to cover.  He also collect 10 point in his pick of the CLEMSON/Wake Forest Game.  He picked CLEMSON to win and to cover.  The TigerSwag picks up all 20 points this week.

The Cock-A-Booster picked up 13 points this week.  He picked USC to win and cover the spread.  They won but they did not cover (3 points.).  He picked Clemson to win and cover the spread.  He picked up 10 points for this pick.

So with just a few weeks left, the TIGERSWAG is leading by 3 touchdowns. 


CLEMSON vs. Duke (Clemson if favored by 15 points)
USC is off this week.

Shame on you SEC


Before I get into my column, I would be remiss if I didn’t say this:  Marcus Lattimore, you are one of my favorite gamecocks and athletes period.  You always take time to talk to the kids (and the adults), you always carry yourself with class and dignity, you always work hard and you always leave it on the field.  If this injury does keep you from turning pro this season, all Gamecock fans are praying that you get well and are back with us for 2013 or 2014.  If this has ended football for you all the way, you are and always will be part of the Gamecock nation and I know you’re headed for success on another “field of play.”  Thank you from both my and my family’s heart.

Now on to the idiotic Southeastern Conference and their raping of the SEC East Schedule to protect one team.  As was predicted BEFORE the year started, this “1-year” silliness was done for one purpose:  getting Georgia back to Atlanta.  The only thing that the SEC didn’t know was that a resurgent Florida would also get the green wiener as well.  Maybe they would have done things differently had they realized that but who knows?    

Georgia whined like babies about having to play Carolina early in the year to the conference and guess what?  The game was moved to stop their cowardly howling.  Then Georgia turned it up a notch and whined that they didn’t need to play any tough teams from the West and guess what?  They were given the easiest schedule you can have in the conference.  

But as we saw when Georgia played Carolina, the SEC knew that simply giving Georgia everything it wanted wasn’t enough.  So to make ABSOLUTELY sure, the plan included some bonus features for the Gamecocks:  1. Our schedule was given Georgia, @LSU and @Florida all in a row;  2. USC was given no open date until after the 9th game of the season, including the gauntlet games above;  3. Georgia was given an open date after game 6, and given a “warm up” against Kentucky before having to even play Florida after getting their rear ends handed to them by Carolina.  

I don’t make the same derisive accusations about Florida because they actually had to play LSU and beat us head-to-head.  Although it is very “convenient” that they were given an open date after game 4 and before the week they played LSU; that game was in the swamp (we had to go to Baton Rouge and Gainesville) AND they were given a Vandy game in-between us and LSU.  But no, this is really about the conference’s insane bowing down to Athens, as the entire world pointed out was happening before the schedule was released AND predicted would happen thereafter.  

Having clearly blamed the conference, let me close with a special message to the puppies.  (1 caveat:  I have some really cool Georgia friends who I like a lot, and props to Mark Richt for his classy prayer for Marcus yesterday.  So this next statement should just be ignored by them.  It is intended only for that lovely 70% of their fan base who will have to have this column read to them by their spouse/sibling, who are often the same person.)

In the spirit of the “Bad News Bears” congratulating the Yankees after they lost (clip below), this is from the heart and with a certain Calhoun County finger extended:  Jawja, “congratulations” on your probable East “championship.”  May the beating Alabama puts on you be worse than the spanking you took from LSU last year.  And don’t you worry; we’ll be there to pick you up by whipping you for the 4th straight season in 2013.  So you better start whining to the SEC now to avoid having to play us!  

What a great time to be a Gamecock! 

Friday, October 26, 2012

MOO U News - ACC apologizes to the nation, wants to merge with the WNBA


By Rusty Crankshaft
The Atlantic Coast Conference has been in a football decline for a number of years, and now finds itself in serious trouble of being demoted out of the BCS.  ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the problem hit him last year square in the face, and it only has gotten worse in 2012.   “ACC Football has truly become the #1 joke in college athletics, and we know something must be done.   If we’re not careful, Clemson is going to become the face of this conference and we saw last season what that gets us.  We are just lucky they were able to ‘smoke and mirror’ their way to a touchdown win over an SEC team that is having their worst season ever.”

Swofford says ACC officials pray daily that FSU won’t get beat again so at least they can ship Clemson off to the Tire Bowl.  “Yes, that way nobody would have to watch their Coach make a monkey of himself for the fortieth time.  Last year that moron demands the nation acknowledge that they would learn all about Clemson’s defense in the Orange Bowl.  Then five minutes later they give up 70 points.  You can’t make that up.”

The Commissioner says steps are being made to remedy the situation.  He says that the next year or two are just an embarrassing dose of medicine the conference must choke down before things get better.  “Hey we went and begged and begged Notre Dame to sort of lend their name to us as long as we did whatever they wanted.  And we’ll make sure to keep Clemson and FSU out of South Bend for as long as we can to avoid any more uncomfortable losses.” 

But the embattled leader of the deteriorating league knows that something big has to occur to truly save the ACC long-term.  “Yes, if we want to be able to continue wasting BCS bids, more must be done. “  In that spirit, the ACC is reaching out to the WNBA as a potential partner.  “Talk about a no-brainer,” noted Swofford, who feels that whatever the WNBA is doing to stay afloat is something the ACC should consider.  “5 people watch the WNBA annually but it’s still alive.  If we can merge with them we should be able to hang around like a festering hemorrhoid for many years in college football.”  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Week 9


Weekend of October 27, 2012

Tennessee at South Carolina
(USC is favored by 14)


For the third straight week, the Gamecocks will be battling themselves as much as they are their opponent.  Carolina has a very good football team, but can they shake off the mental ghosts and close strongly? If they do get the ship righted, they will likely finish the year with 11 wins again.  If not, the wheels could come off. 

Bring in another case of gridiron psychosis, the Tennessee Volunteers.  Will either team really be excited or focused?  Tough to call.  When everything else is equal, you have to give the home team who is more talented the edge. 

Gamecocks come out and get a win and finally get an open date, if the SEC actually allows it to happen.    

South Carolina 31, Tennessee 13 - USC wins and covers the point spread


Last week we heard very little from Spurrier.  This week, even less.
Last week, we heard how UCS was a play or two away from winning at LSU.  This week, QB controversy.
Last week, UCS was playing its third Top 10 team in a row.  This week, Tennessee, who’s O for the SEC.
Last week, UCS played its third straight night game and second Gameday in three weeks.  This week, nooner against Tennessee.
Two weeks ago, this UCS team was in national title consideration.  This week, filled with self-doubt.

What will this week bring?  Can UCS recover from a brutal stretch?  Will the faithful fill Billy Brice for a noon game?  Can Spurrier rally the troops to play a struggling Tennessee team?  How will the coaching issues at Tennessee affect their play?

Luckily for UCS, they have a defense.  One that can set the tone and steady a team.  One that can snatch momentum and hide it away, never to be seen from again.  One that can give the offense ample time to find their stride and get into a rhythm.

UCS’ defense does just that, but the offense still struggles.  UCS wins, and wins comfortably, but the scoreboard doesn’t say as much.

UCS 23, Tennessee 12 - UCS wins but does not cover the point spread


Clemson at Wake Forest
(Clemson is favored by 16)


There is no question that Wake Forest will entertain a fat and happy Clemson team that is ripe for an upset.  Having said that, Wake isn’t any better than any of the rest of the stink pool that makes up the ACC so they won’t be able to take advantage of it.  Clemson has one game of note on the schedule now and they are probably already getting ready for it. 

Look for the Tiggers to loaf around and sleepwalk through a meaningless beating up of another high school squad posing as a college team.  This probably will yield some nervous moments early on with them pulling away late.  If anyone not from Moo U or Winston-Salem actually watches this game, then they honestly need to ask themselves where their life is going.  

Tigers win and the rest of the country yawns.  

Clemson 34, Wake 17 - Clemson wins and covers the point spread


Much has been made this week of two things: Clemson’s struggles on Thursdays and the Bowden/Dabo changeover.

In addition, there’s two additional pieces of info working against Clemson: the return of Wake’s leading receiver and the depletion of Clemson’s secondary.  Wake’s Michael Campanaro has been out since late September and the Wake offense has shown the effects.  For Clemson, Darius Robinson went down during the game, Baushad Breeland has been dealing with nagging injuries for a few weeks, and Jarrod Williams broke a leg during practice.

Plus, Clemson had its second worst offense performance under Chad Morris.  The offensive line was whipped and Boyd looked unsettled.  And it was about this time last year when Clemson lost its way. 

And when you add these items up, it spells struggles for Clemson.  Struggles stopping the pass, struggles stopping the run, and the general struggles of the short week. 

But this team is different, and it won’t matter what happened last year or on previous Thursday nights.  It won’t matter what happened to Bowden or Boyd or Dabo or Deandre.  It matters what this team does.  And this team will pound Wake.

  • Boyd will be sharp, Watkins finds the end zone, & Hopkins continues to dominate
  • Ellington does what Ellington does and the return of the tight ends
  • Improved play from the O-line and pressure from the D-line
  • Pleasant surprises from the secondary
  • Wake scores a few points, because that’s what Clemson’s D does, but the O rolls
  • Long week of prep for Duke

Clemson 41, Wake 20 - Clemson wins and covers the point spread

VERY important to rebound

Before I get into my take on the Florida game and where we go moving forward, I want to remind everyone of what I said before the horrible 3-game gauntlet we were tossed by the SEC.  From my column on September 24:
“I don’t know many rational Gamecock fans who are guaranteeing we will win all three, but I can also say I don’t know many rational Gamecock haters who are putting down big money that we will lose all three either.  If we’re going to reach our goals this year, we will have to win two. “
And of course those words were true.  For us to win the conference championship, realistically we needed to win two of those games.  It didn’t happen that way so that goal is no longer something over which we have control.

How Carolina handles these two losses is almost as important as it was to try and win the games in the first place.  We can either pout, shoot the bird at the SEC because no one else had to play three top-10 teams in a row with no open date, including two in a row on the road, OR we can put it behind us, beat Tennessee and be the kind of team we know we are to close the season.

Yes, Florida and Georgia were both given much easier hands to play with than the Gamecocks.  No rational person with a brain stem would say otherwise.  The Gators got both us and LSU at home and had a game in between to get ready.  Georgia doesn’t play anyone of substance in the West at all and only had to beat either us or Florida to win the East. 
But that’s the way it was and yes it bit us for the 2nd year in a row.  So hopefully karma will give us a break in the next few years on the schedule side and that wheel will turn.  If our program stays at a high level it eventually will.  In the meantime, we better not play around with the rest of our 2012 schedule because we’re sour.  What’s left you ask?

  • A win over Tennessee means that we would have a winning record against the “Big 3” in the East for the third straight season for the first time ever.  (We also would have gone 14-2 against the East overall in three seasons!) 
  •  We have a real chance to stop the bleeding over Arkansas.  They are down and I don’t care what anyone says about it.  A win over the Hogs would be a win over the Hogs!  
  •  Winning out would give us our 2nd 10-win regular season in a row, after only 1 in our history before that.  For those who want to be negative and tear this down due to the addition of the 12th game, fine.  Even without that game, it would still be the first time I can recall of at least three seasons where we win at least 9 games.  
  •  A win over Clemson this season would give us a 4-game winning streak over the Tigers for the first time in my life. 
  •  If we finish the season at 11-2, this Senior Class would leave USC with an overall record of 38-15, an SEC East Championship, 20 regular season SEC victories, a 20-13 overall SEC record (including the championship game loss to Auburn), and an unbeaten record against Clemson.
So yeah we’re all down about the last two weeks, but it’s time to get over it and focus on Tennessee, Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson.  Too much is still at stake to let the rest of the season slip away.  What a great time to be a Gamecock! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Correction!


The TigerSwag had Clemson winning but not covering the 11 point spread.  Therefore, after further review... NO TOUCHDOWN for the TIGERS...! So The Cock-A-Booster now only trails by 2 touchdowns.

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Scoreboard Update after week 8


The TigerSwag makes a huge move in week 8.

The TigerSwag received 3 points for picking Florida over USC and 3 points for picking Clemson over Virginia Tech.  He also got 7 points on both games by picking the winner against the spread.

The Cock-A-Booster derailed by missing the USC pick entirely (2 points to The TigerSwag).  He only picked up 3 points by picking Clemson to win.

So, what was a close contest is no longer.  The Cock-A-Booster needs a really good week to get back into the game!

  • Tennessee at SOUTH CAROLINA (South Carolina is favored by 14 points)
  • Clemson at WAKE FOREST (Clemson is favored by 16 points)

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Approximately one year ago this week, we launched the COCK-A-BOOSTER blog.  We had hoped to have 25,000 or so visits in year one.  Suprisingly, we have had over 65,000 visitors come and read our posts and respond to our articles.  We look forward to another year on the web.  Thank you to all our readers and supporters.  GO GAMECOCKS!!

The Crystal Ball Speaks in week 8...

LSU at Texas A & M
The Red Stick Felines leave Baton Rouge on Saturday, hoping to round up some Cowboys from College Station for another feeding.  The home lassos have been on target so far this fall, and they are catching the cats on just the right weekend.  Les Miles is back pretending he knows what he is doing, but he won’t have a magic home crowd on this Gaucho Ranch. The Cockabooster crystal ball says... Tex A & M by 3

Auburn at Vanderbilt
Gene Chizik takes his Plains Pride into Music City this weekend, hoping to avoid being named the “former” coach of Jordan-Hare.  His cats better have sharp claws because they’re running into some Nashville Boat Captains on a roll.  The admirals finally sank an opponent of note last week and they are ready to do it again.  The Cockabooster crystal ball says... Auburn by 5

Alabama at Tennessee
The Elegant Elephants from West Birmingham trample into the Smokies this weekend, ready to stomp over the Knoxville Militia once and for all.  This pigskin hunt used to be intriguing, but Derek Dooley’s Coonskin Caps have been full of holes.  The Neyland Brigade will be sharp early, but leave the bloodhounds howling when the day is done.   The Cockabooster crystal ball says... Alabama by 11

Georgia at Kentucky
The neutered puppies from the Athens Alpo Hut whimper into the bluegrass this weekend, hoping to collect a few gridiron bones to bury.  Joker Phillips will have the local kittens ready to play, and the Red Clay Hounds may come out and roll over for a while.  When it’s over look for the barkers to paw back to the Peach State with the collars in tact. The Cockabooster crystal ball says... Georgia by 14

Virginia Tech at Clemson
The upstate kitty-cats are back in the scratching post on Saturday, coming off their best defensive showing of the season against Open Date.  Some neutered gobblers from the Commonwealth will flock into Death Valley and give the Tigers a Thanksgiving lunch on Halloween.  The Clown Prince of Pickens could unleash just his “Mary Jane Boys” and win this one which should keep the Orange Kool-Aid flowing. The Cockabooster crystal ball says... Clesmson by 9

South Carolina at Florida
The Garnet Cluckers from Richland County will flock into Citrus Country this weekend, hoping to jam some spurs through the local lizard swamp hides.  The Ocala Crocodiles have been hearing all week how untouchable they are, while the visiting poultry is still steaming from a bad trip to the Bayou.  The whole world is guaranteeing Gator Bait, which means look for some new boots instead.   The Cockabooster  crystal ball says... South Carolina by 4

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Week 8


Weekend of October 20, 2012

South Carolina at Florida
(Florida is favored by 3.5)


I don’t think anyone honestly had Carolina sweeping all three of the “gauntlet” games the SEC tossed at us to get Georgia back to the SEC Championship this year, so we’re right where I thought we would be and heading to Spurrier’s old fishing hole.  
We have now been left for dead and discarded as a 1-week wonder.  We’re old news all of sudden.  Meanwhile, everyone on Earth has declared Florida the East Champions and are just waiting to watch them tear apart the Gamecocks.  Fortunately, despite having been told it is a fruitless trip by many, we are going to go ahead and make the trip anyway. 

Florida will come out and try and replicate what LSU did.  Run right at us and hope we are as flat and listless as we were in Baton Rouge.  For this plan to work, we would not only have to play that poorly again, but Connor Shaw would have to have consecutive games where he is making bad decisions galore.  I don’t see that.  Shaw has laid an egg before and bounced back in a big way.  

The Gators will not find things as easy as LSU did.  We will be focused, ready to play and I can assure you if they beat us they will earn it folks.  Hopefully when this is done we can all go pull for LSU against Bama because I would LOVE to see those boys in Atlanta.  

Carolina 20, Florida 16 - Carolina wins the game and covers the spread.


After being physically manhandled last week at DeathValley.net, the UCS fans are covered in bumps, bruises, and misdemeanors.  Unfortunately, their players have it worse.

For example:

  • Will Lattimore play?  And if so, how effective will he be?
  • Has the flu bug run its course?
  • Will Quarles be given the Sammy Watkins treatment, or the Stephen Garcia treatment?
  • Will Shaw ride on the team bus, or will Spurrier throw him under it again?

These are not easy questions for perennial powers to answer, nevertheless a group that’s never been there before.  So how will they respond?

I’m not sure and I don’t know that most UCS fans are either.  And when we don’t know what will happen, we focus on what won’t – and see where it leads us.

  • UCS’ defense will not give their offense the ball with a goal to go situation
  • UCS’ special teams will not put their offense on the plus side of the field
  • Florida’s offense will not run up the middle the way LSU did
  • Florida’s defense will not completely shut down the rushing game the way LSU did
  • Florida’s fans will not be as drunk as LSU’s
  • UCS’ fans will not get arrested
  • Herbstreit will not be attached by Sir Big Spur again

When two very similar teams face off, the game is typically decided by intangibles.  Things like momentum, crowd, fear, luck.  Who jumps out to an early lead?  Who lets the attention go to their head?  Who handles pressure and who’s in the right place at the right time?

Spurrier has been quiet this week, which means he’s not as confident as he has been.    And if he’s not as confident, you can bet his team isn’t.  And if they aren’t confident, then they have no shot at winning.

Florida scores early, plays great defense, and breaks UCS’ will.

Florida 20
UCS 13

UCS loses the game and Florida covers the 3.5 spread


Virginia Tech at Clemson
(Clemson is favored by 11)


This would be a perfect week to call for the “feelings hurter” to bite the Tigers, and I just may regret not doing that.  Clemson has now talked themselves back into “world-beater” status even though they haven’t done anything to warrant it.  

The ACC is just so dadgum awful now.  Outside of Florida State, this may very well be one of the worst conferences ever eligible to waste a BCS bid, which they will like they did last year.  So Clemson ought to be good enough on the Florida-bought talent alone to get through this one with a victory.  That’s why I just can’t make myself pick the Hokies.  Tech usually at least has a good defense to fall back on, but last year and this year that just isn’t the case.  

The final reason I will take the Tigers is that VT is starting games slowly this year and you can’t do that at Clemson.   This is likely a game that Dabo and crew will be a little flat early and Tech would need to pounce on that.  Tiggers win but once again only impress themselves. 

Clemson 30, Va. Tech 21 - Clemson wins but not by more than the 11 point spread


Just when you thought you were catching Virginia Tech at the perfect time, they go out and drop 41 straight on a decent Duke team.  So now they come in with decent momentum and a Heisman worthy quarterback.  And a thirst for revenge.

And while they’ll bring momentum, motivation, and a tall quarterback, they won’t be bringing their typical defense or special teams.  After holding GT to only 17 points, the VT defense has averaged giving up 32.5 points to BCS teams, including 48 to UNC.

But talent is still there, especially on the outside.  Duke made a living in the middle of the field, and Clemson will need to as well.  Look for big games from the tight ends and slot backs, with the occasional deep threat to keep everyone honest.

Also, look for Virginia Tech to take away the short stuff and challenge Clemson to beat them throwing the ball up the field rather than to the flats.  Same for the running game.  Expect them to take away the stretch, forcing Clemson to earn yard between the tackles.

Offensively, Virginia Tech has lived on the big play.  Just last week, four of their touchdowns came on plays longer than 40 yards.  Clemson will need to keep Virginia Tech in front of them and wait for the drive to stall, which it usually does.

Clemson has yet to face a ton of resistance defensively, nor have they put up much defensive resistance of their own.  Clemson jumps out to a double digit lead, but the big play abilities of Virginia Tech keep the game close.  Ultimately Clemson’s firepower keeps Virginia Tech at bay and wins a close game.

Clemson 37
Virginia Tech 31

Clemson wins but does not  cover the 11 point spread.