Gamecock Man from SB Nation's South Carolina site Garnet and Black Attack (@GABAttack) answered some of my questions about his beloved Gamecocks before the game on Saturday. Why do all of our conference mates have to be so damn nice and civil?...
1. What can Dylan Thompson do in Connor Shaw's absence to renew confidence in the Gamecock faithful?
Connor Shaw has been an improved passer this season, but coming into the season, many thought that while Shaw provided superior running ability at the QB position, Dylan Thompson was more dangerous in the passing game. Gamecocks fans are hoping that Thompson is able to hurt Missouri downfield in the passing game, which would in turn soften up Mizzou's running defense and give Mike Davis room to do his work. The worry with Thompson is that he puts the ball in danger sometimes, which could obviously hurt us against an opportunistic Missouri defense.
2. What other pieces of the South Carolina offense should Mizzou be worried about?
Mike Davis provides the Gamecocks with excellent production at the tailback position. Davis is a violent runner who makes excellent cuts and can break away for a long gain if he gets to the second level. He didn't have as many holes as he's accustomed to last week against Tennessee because our starting right guard, Ronald Patrick, was out with an ankle injury, but Patrick should be back this week, which will hopefully mean a return to stellar play by our offensive line.
3. Give us the REAL story behind Jadeveon Clowney this season. No more of this "he's quitting for the draft" stuff, why are his numbers "down" this year and what effect does he still have on a game?
If you've not read this article about Clowney, I highly encourage you to do so. The real story about Clowney this season is that opposing teams have schemed him out of games by directing running plays away from him, double-teaming him, using quick-release passing plays, etc. If anything has disappointed Gamecocks fans about our defensive line play, it's that the DE opposite of Clowney, Chaz Sutton, has been very disappointing after showing promise last year in a backup role. With most running plays going to his side, Sutton hasn't defended the run well at all.
4. What's your absolute favorite "Old Ball Coach" moment?
There are many, but the first thing that jumped into my head when I read this question was this play. The commentary from the ESPN announcers lends added enjoyment. I was a student at USC in 2006 and have fond memories of watching this game.
5. Tell us a little bit about the story behind the choosing of the "Gamecocks" as the official nickname for the University.
Legend has it that USC originally took the "Gamecocks" moniker in honor of Thomas Sumter, "the Fighting Gamecock of the American Revolution." Sumter was a hero in the South Carolina theater of the Revolution. My understanding is that the nickname gained traction among the students when USC defeated a heavily favored Clemson in 1902. After the game, USC students paraded a flag depicting a gamecock whipping a tiger. USC has been the Gamecocks ever since.
6. To mirror your question to me, what Mizzou player would you choose to put on your team if you could have just one of them today?
I should probably take one of your linebackers, since that's our biggest area of need right now, but I'll actually say Kony Ealy. I've been really impressed by Ealy, and if we had someone like him to line up opposite of Clowney, our defensive line would be an absolute terror.
7. What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the state of Missouri?
8. What tradition/interesting fact about South Carolina do all opposing fans need to know?
USC students burn a tiger in effigy every year before the Clemson game. This tradition dates back to the 1902 conflict I mentioned earlier. This article provides further details.
9. What's your opinion on the condition of the SEC this season? Is it a "down" year, or are people just put off by some of the traditional powers not being the class of the conference?
We at South Carolina know your pain. When we have a good year, the talking heads and the fans of the traditional power programs all say it's because the Eastern Division is down. Personally, I don't think the league is down, just that different teams have risen up this year and taken the reigns in the league. Indeed, I'd be willing to argue that the league is as good as ever this year, particularly in terms of depth. I think you'll see that when bowl season rolls around, the SEC will acquit itself as well as it always does. Despite the skepticism about our having won lots of games due to a struggling SEC, South Carolina has won its last two bowl games against traditional powers from the Big 10. I'll bet Missouri will have similar success when it comes time to represent the rest of the conference during bowl season.
10. Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
The Gamecocks are capable of playing much better than they did last week against Tennessee, and I think you'll see a revitalized USC this weekend. Our season is on the line this weekend and we'll be playing with fire. If the game were in our Columbia, I'd take us to win. However, as well as Missouri is playing, I can't pick USC to win playing away in this game. I'm predicting Missouri will win 34-31.
Some follow up questions (from the editor):
- Do you remember Brad Smith? He's our favorite!
- What planet is "Jadaveon Clowney from and how did he get here?
- Is it USC, USCe, SCAR, SoCar...? What is the proper way to refer to South Carolina?
- Being the only avian mascot in the SEC, would you consider letting us burn your city down, just so we can get it out of our system?