Friday, August 30, 2013

The worst 17-point win ever?

Listening to some Gamecock fans following the game, you would think that Carolina lost the game 10-27.  Have we really gotten to the point where USC is favored by 12, wins by 17 and we’re unhappy?  Give me a break.

Granted, even the negative nellies were excited about the offense.  Connor Shaw did what he always does in home games, Dylan Thompson fired up another TD, the offensive line is the best we’ve seen in years, Mike Davis looked awesome and Shaq Roland has everyone smiling. 

Meanwhile, after hearing from Clemson fans and ACC apologists for months that the Tar Heels were the greatest offense on earth (besides Clemson of course) and that when a team ran 80 plays in the August heat our defense would collapse.  Well, the goats got their 80 plays and ran their magical scheme all night.  The result?  10 points and under 300 yards.  Yawn.   Add in that our freshman kicker looks just fine and you have offense, check, defense, check and kicking, check.  

But, because Jadeveon Clowney didn’t have 54 sacks before halftime it wasn’t enough.  That is the bad thing about ESPN’s yearlong media hype of #7 into some kind of monster that eats tanker trucks and uses buildings as toothpicks.  You can’t possibly live up to that kind of billing.  That’s okay with me.  I will take the bar being raised that high on a Gamecock player if it means we get all the free national love.  Clowney will be fine now that he can settle into a normal football role.  

Now we will watch the Athens Alpos and the Pickens Kittens battle it out for the “least hygienic fan base” award on Saturday night before we meet Jawja.  I have the Klimpletons winning pretty easily, but either way we will get a rested and focused bunch of silver britches when we go between the hedges.  Just like the Tiggers have their entire identity and world invested into beating Georgia, Georgia absolutely must win over us for once.  

Even if you do think our win last night wasn’t a work of art, you have to acknowledge that this is Spurrier’s pattern in Columbia.  We have looked less than stellar out of the gate against ECU and Vandy.  Then on cue both of those seasons produced 11 wins.  

Normally I am looked out as a party-pooper when talking about Carolina, but I actually was pleased with what I saw.  Our linebackers have stared down a magical pistol ACC offense and stuffed it.  Our defensive backs were all over the ball making the Heels’ purported Joe Montana settle for dink-and-dunk stuff all night.  

So now Connor Shaw has his chance to lead us to a marquee, signature road win.  Georgia is going to make #14 beat them if we’re going to win.   If he does, the sky is the limit on 2013.  Go get ‘em Connor. 
It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

CLAWS vs. PAWS - Week 1


Weekend of August 31, 2013


Clemson has followed a pretty predictable pattern in the last few years and I see no reason that will change in 2013.  The unwarranted preseason hype in Orange-land is off the charts as usual and this opening game plays right into the formula.  Clemson got a couple of early season wins over Auburn in recent years thanks to Auburn not being very good and that set the hype-o-meter a blazing.  Both of those years ended for the Tiggers with embarrassing losses to the Gamecocks. 

Georgia has a bunch of suspended players and their attention is largely on the visit from Carolina to Athens next week.   Clemson on the other hand has their entire identity and program invested into winning this game.  It is an absolute must-win game and it is in the Pickens County Cat House.  Too many intangibles breaking Clemson’s way so you have to go with the home team in this one. 

I will take Clemson to win and cover the spread...
Clemson 38, Georgia 27


Let's be honest, Clemson has not had the best success against Mark Richt.  During his tenure at FSU, he and Weinke pulled off the greatest play-action pass ever executed, followed by his UGA team dismantling Tommy Bowden at the Valley in what many have deemed the hottest, worst home game ever.

But those games were with TB at the helm.  Now he has as much influence over this game as I do.  But will it matter?  Will Dabo do better?  Can Clemson score enough to win, or stop Georgia when it counts?

Both Clemson and Georgia enter this game fired up, and it would not surprise me to see penalty flags fly before the game starts.  Look for Clemson to strike first, and for the crowd to stay energized.  However, the Georgia offense takes a page from Spurrier's playbook and pounds the Clemson defense with Gurley and Marshall.  Georgia draws even.  Clemson answers, and both teams trade scores, with Georgia holding a slim lead at the half.  Coming out of the half, Georgia extends their lead with a TD, and then stretches it to 2 scores with a field goal.  Clemson responds, but is unable to fully close the gap.  Clemson has one final opportunity, but they can't finish the drive.  Georgia takes over, kills the clock, and leaves Death Valley with a 4 point win. 

I will take Georgia to win and cover the spread...
Georgia 31, Clemson 27



North Carolina comes into Columbia loose and confident and with nothing to lose.  Carolina on the other hand has been hyped up to the brim with our highest preseason ranking ever.  So yes, of course the visiting goats will come out and play well.  Shocking.  Meanwhile the Gamecocks will likely come out of the gates a little rusty as we did at Vanderbilt last year. 

What it will mean is a bunch of squirming fannies in the bleachers early at Williams-Brice.  The good news is that it won’t mean an upset loss, just a sluggish win.  Connor Shaw doesn’t lose games he starts in Columbia and Thursday won’t change that.

The Gamecocks will survive a tough test and get ready for the trip to Athens.  North Carolina’s wine-and-cheese crowd will head back to Chapel Hill the losers that gave it a good effort.  Everyone wins. 

I will take to USC to win but not cover the spread...
South Carolina 20, UNC 13


"Watching UNC & USC in the "Battle of the "Carolinas" is a lot like politics: Bunch of people you can't stand claiming to represent you." - The TigerSwag

As Thursday afternoon rolls around, the nation's eyes will turn their gaze upon Columbia, South Carolina to welcome back college football.  We'll get goosebumps as we're reminded of college football's pageantry, traditions, and fandom.  Pom poms will wave, Neil Laurie will bust Cocky out of jail, and Northwestern High, I mean Miami, FL, I mean Rick Flair, I mean Elvis, I mean USC will enter W-B.  The cameras will pan the crowd and we'll see nearly 80,000 tank tops, jorts, and mullets.  ESPN and Jesse Palmer will go crazy, and the rest of the country will be reminded of why we hate the SEC.

And then UNC will enter the stadium and Clemson fans will be reminded of why we hate all things North Carolina.  This will cause us to take a deep breath, ask God for forgiveness, and silently proclaim: "Go Heels".

During the actual game, both teams come out sloppy, and the game turns into a defensive struggle, giving Pollack ample time to compare his career to Clowney's.  The stalemate is eventually broken as USC returns a punt for a TD.  Later, USC punches the ball in the endzone just before the half to go up two scores.  USC maintains the double digit cushion through most of the 2nd half until UNC finally scores to cut the lead to single digits.  UNC gets a needed defensive stop and the ball back with a chance to tie; however, Clowney summons the spirit of Medusa on Renner, who turns to stone out of fear.  USC turns that turnover into 6, and the final score. 

I will take USC to win and cover the spread...
Carolina South 23, Carolina North 10




Monday, August 26, 2013


The Cock-A-Booster and The Tiger Swag are joining forces again this season in a fun little battle called CLAWS vs. PAWS.  We will garner their prediction powers and expert game analysis and post their weekly game choices for the USC and CLEMSON games on both blogs.  As the season progresses we will keep a prediction scoreboard and see who comes out on top after the bowl games are complete.

Here is how the scoring will work...

The Cock-A-Booster and The Tiger Swag will each predict both the USC and the Clemson games for the upcoming weekend.  They will pick an outright winner of the games and then pick against the spread.

Each time they pick a winner vs. the spread they get a TOUCHDOWN (7 pts).  If they just pick the winner but miss the spread they only get a FIELD GOAL (3 pts.).  If they miss the pick all together the other team gets a SAFETY (2 points).

So, stay tuned for the first week of CLAWS vs. PAWS...


SOUTH CAROLINA is favored by 12.5 over NORTH CAROLINA
GEORGIA is favored by 2 over CLEMSON


The Cock-A-Booster's CRYSTAL BALL says...

DATE: Games for the week of August 31, 2013

Rice at Texas A & M
The College Station Lone Stars open up the Cowboy Ranches on Saturday, hoping to throw some Houston Hooters on the grill for supper.  The Wise Old Purple Ones hope to catch the home gauchos napping, but the 12th man will have the lassos out in force.
The CRYSTAL BALL says... Texas A & M by 20

Miss. State at Oklahoma State
The Stillwater Cattle Farms will be o
pen for business this weekend, as the Orange Boots hope to kick down some visiting K9s from Magnolia Country.  The road puppies will bring some strong jowls with them, and they plan to leave with some leather chaps in tow.  They may run into a Gridiron branding instead.      
The CRYSTAL BALL says... Oklahoma State by 13

Washington State at Auburn
The Plains Kittens will open up the Opelika scratching post this weekend, hoping to make 2012 a distant memory.  Gus Malzhan has renewed the energy and hope at Jordan-Hare, and it will show in the early contests.  Some freshly clawed Cougar would hit the spot of every War Eagle appetite. 
The CRYSTAL BALL says... Auburn by 15

Alabama at Virginia Tech
Nick Saban and his elegant elephants are looking for three in a row, and that trampling will have to begin with some castrated gobblers from Blacksburg.  The travelling turkeys are hoping to represent the ACC well, and just by getting out of their cages safely they will do so.  The Tide will roll after some early poultry stands. 
The CRYSTAL BALL says... Alabama by 19

Georgia  at Clemson
The little coach in a sweatshirt will stop his insane rantings for a few hours on Saturday, hoping the visitors from the Peach State have enough suspended to steal  a win.  The Athens Alpos are sound asleep headed into this one, and are completely focused on the visit from the Old Ball Coach next week.  The stars have aligned in this one too nicely.  The purple kittens will meow loudly.
The CRYSTAL BALL says... Clemson by 11

North Carolina at South Carolina
The baby blue billy goats from fake BBQ country herd into Columbia on Thursday, hoping to headbutt Steve Spurrier’s roosters early and often.  The road rams have nothing to lose and will make this one very uncomfortable, but the Garnet Gaggle at the Bluff Road Poultry Plant will leave with their feathers largely unrustled. 
The CRYSTAL BALL says... South Carolina by 7

In other games...The CRYSTAL BALL says go with...
 Florida, Vanderbilt (over Ole Miss), Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, LSU, and Missouri.  

Time to dust off the old Crystal Ball!

It is that time of year…finally!  The Gamecocks kick off the season on Thursday night against the Tar Heels and it is about time.  So in the spirit of the new football season, here are my predictions for how we will do in 2013.  Last year I predicted us to go 9-3 so I was one game off.  (Please note I will also be doing the weekly Claws and Paws picks with my buddy Willy Powell over at The Tiger Swag). 

USC fans roll into this season even more confident and hyped up than in 2012 if that’s possible.  There are many good reasons for us to feel that way.  Frankly, we only have a couple of question marks as I have written about over the summer:  1. New linebackers across the board?; 2. Will we have enough depth in the secondary?;  3. Can Connor Shaw land a signature road win in the SEC as a starter?  I suppose if you wanted to just absolutely be completely negative you could also bring up others, but in reality those are our weaknesses.

I am far from the “negative nelly” I used to be as a Gamecock fan, but I still see things realistically.  As I did last year, I see this year’s team as better and improved from 2012.  And unlike previous years, I think our schedule is actually fair.  It is difficult as always of course, but fair.  So let’s break down the 12 contests this way:

Probable wins:   UNC, @ C. Fla., Vandy, Kentucky, @ Tenn., Miss. State, Coastal Carolina.
Probable loss:    @ Georgia
Land Mines:       @ Arkansas, @ Mizzou, Florida, Clemson
Similar to last year, the season will come down to how we handle 1/3 of the slate.  We went 3-1 in those games (@ Florida, Arkansas, Mizzou and @ Clemson) and ended up 10-2.  I think we’ll match that this fall and go 10-2 again.  I see us adding wins against Florida, Mizzou and Clemson while stubbing our toe in Fayetteville. 

You know there are actually some USC fans that would consider that a disappointment.  God bless ‘em.  I have lived through 1-21 and several decades of bad football in my day.  No, I am nowhere close to being “unhappy” with a 10-2 mark.  I’ll leave that to my son’s generation.  After all, we only have five seniors on this year’s roster.  Six if you count Clowney which you certainly should.  Things are going to be just fine in Columbia for years to come.  I will choose to enjoy the ride instead of enduring it. 

10 wins, 2 losses and maybe a division title depending on what happens in Athens.  I am good with that. 

It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

GAMECOCK Tidbits: North Carolina asks for changes to format of game against Gamecocks

Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora, concerned for his players’ safety as they open the season in Columbia against the SEC’s South Carolina Gamecocks, has asked for some “mercy” changes to the format of the game.  “I can’t let my guys just go out and get slaughtered in a few weeks so I am asking for some reasonable changes to the game in the spirit of safety.”  

Fedora says instead of full-contact action with 11 players on each side, both schools should put 5 players out in just jerseys and shorts.  Also, the game should be played in an “arena” of some kind.  Finally, the Heels want to adjust the way you score points from the traditional “touchdown/field goal/safety” format.  “I think we should try and throw a rounded out sphere-like football through a metal rim attached to some netting.  And those types of touchdowns should only get you 2 or 3 points, depending on the kind of pass thrown that puts the ball through said rim.”  

If the Gamecocks won’t agree to the changes, Fedora says he will then challenge Steve Spurrier to see whose team can dance around the Maypole in the most creative way. 

MOO U News: MLB gives Dabo lifetime ban

Major League Baseball has been in the news a lot lately suspending its stars for using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.  They went a step further than expected, however, by giving a lifetime ban to a College Football Coach who has never been a part of their sport.  Clemson Coach Dabo Swinney, known for his insane statements and erratic behavior, has been told he can never be a part of baseball. 

Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to make absolutely sure that someone as unhinged as Swinney could never do anything to hurt the American Pastime.  “Yes, we don’t often take action against Coaches at the amateur level in other sports,” said Selig, who said he felt a moral obligation to protect the diamond from someone as nutty as Dabo.  “It just had to be done.  Dabo is the kind of person that kind of stays right on the brink of losing his mind.  I mean, at any moment could just lose it and start flinging his poop around.”  

Selig added that Dabo’s unearned confidence about the upcoming Tigers’ football season was the final straw.  “Anyone who thinks an ACC team is a threat to win a national title or have a player win the Heisman needs serious psychological counseling.  We will pray he gets the help he needs but we don’t want him in baseball.” 

This year is about Shaw and our LBs more than Clowney

Connor Shaw
No one loves Jadeveon Clowney more than the Cockabooster.  I have a picture of #7 with my 7-year old as my screen-saver.  And yes, I have enjoyed the over-saturation of media hype that has built his legendary status up across the nation.  But with all due respect to Clowney, we know exactly what we’re going to get from him: an intimidating pass rush and opposing offenses that are obsessed with stopping him.  Love it, love it, love everything about it and I can’t wait for another season of it.  

But if you’re being honest, that isn’t going to determine the fate of 2013.  There are two other questions that loom MUCH larger than Clowney in my humble opinion:  1. What will we get from 3 brand new linebackers?; 2. Can Connor Shaw lead us to victory in Athens?  I think everyone would agree with the first question, but I get some push-back about Shaw.  Well, like it or not, there is going to be a game this season (*cough* Athens *cough*) where an SEC team is going to make #14 beat them.  

Connor Shaw is already one of the best quarterbacks in Gamecock history.  That fact is not debatable.   And if we’re talking about playing at home he has been immaculate.  No question.  He even has the two bowl wins to his credit even if Dylan Thompson saved us in the last one.  

However, he has one large, gaping hole in his story: He has never gone into a premiere road den of hostility and led USC to a win.  His best true road wins as a starter are at Miss. State (Alshon saved us after a terrible day) and a 14-3 lackluster win at Tennessee after they had given up for the season.  Add in that during his time, Shaw has been bailed out at times by a gunslinger or two, and you can see why the book on him is still a bit iffy.  Garcia bailed him out of a potential embarrassing opening loss as a starter against East Carolina and Dylan Thompson had to step in at Clemson and at the Outback Bowl.  

Then there were the trips to Fayetteville, Baton Rouge and Gainesville that are the Garnet Elephant in the Room that no one wants to discuss.  Carolina fans may not like hearing it, but if the Shaw from those games is the one we take to Athens, we will not have a chance to win.  If it’s the confident, sharp Shaw we get in Williams-Brice we’re good to go.  Just ask Georgia themselves.  Connor carved up the Dawgs by any definition…at home.  That night was one of the finest games in the program’s history.  

Now I acknowledge that, depending on how good some other road opponents end up (Arkansas, Mizzou and Rocky Top), Shaw could actually get two shots at landing a signature road win.  But come on!  It’s all about how he looks between the hedges at this point.  Georgia is desperate for a win over USC and will throw everything they have at the Gamecocks.  Georgia isn’t being saved by the schedule this year so for once this game will probably decide the division winner.  

So win this game Connor and the word legend will start getting attached to your name in Columbia, along with the name Clowney.   Go get em #14!

It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!