Thursday, August 8, 2013

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!

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