South Carolina Gamecocks

CFT Previews: Duck Commander Independence Bowl

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WHO: Miami (6-6) vs. South Carolina (6-6)
WHAT: The 39th Independence Bowl
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, Louisiana
WHEN: 3:30 p.m. ET Dec. 27 on ABC
THE SKINNY: In a battle to see which team emerges with less of a disappointing season than the other, the underachieving South Carolina Gamecocks face the Miami Hurricanes in the Duck Commander Independence Bowl.

Both teams entered this season with aspirations of winning their divisions. Instead, both are 6-6 with one team leaving Shreveport, Louisiana with a record over .500.

Steve Spurrier‘s Gamecocks limped their way through a worse overall season. The program was expected to compete for the SEC East with the Georgia Bulldogs to eventually play in the SEC Championship Game. After finishing 11-2 the previous three seasons and opening the 2014 campaign ranked ninth overall, expectations remained sky high. Instead, the Gamecocks feel flat by losing five of their last eight games.

When South Carolina was successful, though, the Gamecocks offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage. Running backs Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds combined for 1,494 rushing yards. Davis already stated he will leave Columbia after this year to join the NFL ranks. The junior will likely be showcased in his final game with the program.

Likewise, Miami’s best weapon is running back Duke Johnson. Johnson, who is also expected to leave Miami after this season for the NFL, is the barometer for the Hurricanes’ success. During a six-game stretch through the middle of the season, the running back ran for over 100 yards in each contest. Miami finished 4-2 during that stretch. The program is 2-4 in the games when Johnson ran for less than the century mark.

As the program’s all-time leading rusher, Johnson’s success is vital for Miami to emerge victorious.

But the Gamecocks can take over a game with its talented offensive line. Those big eaters up front should give South Carolina a slight advantage in a game that pits two of the nation’s most inconsistent teams against one another.

Spurrier succinctly summed up exactly what’s on the line, “They’re 6-6 just like us, so somebody is going to be a winner and someone is going to leave a loser. So, a lot on the line for this game.”

THE PREDICTION: South Carolina 24, Miami 21

No. 5 Auburn continues to roll on offense, defeats South Carolina 42-35

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The South Carolina Gamecocks threw everything they had at the fifth-ranked Auburn Tigers, and it simply wasn’t enough.

Auburn continues to prove week in and week out why its one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. The program’s 42-35 victory over South Carolina Saturday is just another example.

To borrow an old tagline: “You can’t stop Auburn’s offense. You can only hope to contain it.”

The Gamecocks used fourth-down conversions, trick plays and even a surprise onside kick, yet it still didn’t slow Auburn. At one point in the game, the Tigers scored a touchdown during six straight offensive drives.

Auburn amassed an impressive 551 total yards in one of their best offensive performances of the season.

Quarterback Nick Marshall led the way 228 total yards and four touchdowns, including a trifecta of rushing scores. Running back Cameron Artis-Payne also impressed with 167 rushing yards.

The concerns for the Tigers come on the defensive side of the ball. Auburn surrendered 535 total yards. South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson lit up Auburn’s defense with 402 passing yards and five touchdowns.

The effort simply wasn’t good enough for a team expected to be in the top four of the first College Football Playoff rankings.

With the win, Auburn will likely become the No. 4 in the AP Top 25 after Ole Miss lost to LSU. The Tigers still face the No. 9 Georgia Bulldogs and No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide. As long as the Tigers’ offense continues to click, Auburn will remain in contention even as it runs through the gauntlet of SEC play.

No. 24 South Carolina inches by No. 6 Georgia 38-35

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The rain came and went and came back again at Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C. The precipitation helped wash away the stink of the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks’ play through their first two games. The Gamecocks played at another level and established an identity during their 38-35 victory against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs.

It’s often said football is a game of inches, and the cliche was literal in its interpretation Saturday in Columbia.

When the game was on the line late in the fourth quarter, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier relied on the team’s most talented unit to take over. The Gamecocks’ offense line dominated the latter portions of the game. In the fourth quarter, South Carolina ran the ball 11 times out of 13 plays. The other two plays resulted in an interception and a kneel down to seal the victory.

From left to right, the Gamecocks’ offensive line played at a very high level. Left tackle Corey Robinson and left guard A.J. Cann were creating massive holes. Center Cody Waldrop set the tone in the middle. Right guard Mike Matulis and right tackle Brandon Shell were consistent on the strong side. Their combined effort resulted in 176 rushing yards and 447 yards of total offense.

The contest was eventually settled on a fourth down at the 50-yard line. The wide bodies up front were able to get just enough push for one yard and a first down to seal the game.

While the play of the offensive line was special, the Gamecocks’ defense needs to be acknowledged. The unit improved from its previous efforts against the Texas A&M Aggies and East Carolina Pirates. Prior to Saturday’s contest, South Carolina gave up 566.5 yards on average and ranked 120th in the nation in total defense. The Bulldogs were able to move the football, but the Gamecocks saw marked improvement from their defense.

South Carolina surrendered a much more respectable 408 yards to Georgia. It’s clearly an improvement over South Carolina’s previous performances, but it’s also 51 yards less than Georgia gained against the Clemson Tigers.

The Gamecocks also had luck on their side. Georgia kicker Marshall Morgan wrapped a late field goal attempt around the outside of the goal post for South Carolina to maintain its tenuous lead.

Despite the loss, Georgia played well in stretches. Quarterback Hutson Mason didn’t make any major mistakes, and the team was able to get running back Todd Gurley rolling in the second half. Gurley finished with 131 rushing yards after a slow start.

A loss to South Carolina simply means the SEC East will be a dogfight again this season. South Carolina, though, now has the edge with the head-to-head victory. Plus, the Gamecocks will have an advantage each with their ability to dominate up front along the offensive line.

Gamecocks’ defense comes alive during first half against Georgia Bulldogs

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The No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks entered Saturday’s game against the No. 6 Georgia Bulldogs with the 120th-ranked defense in college football. South Carolina surrendered an average of 566.5 yards through the first two games of the season. Yet the defense has been able to slow an explosive Bulldogs’ offense, and the Gamecocks lead 24-13 at halftime.

After the teams traded touchdowns during their initial drives,  South Carolina’s defense rose to the occasion. The Gamecocks surrendered 117 yards during Georgia’s next four drives. The Bulldogs managed 2o3 total yards before the half.

More importantly, South Carolina contained Georgia’s outstanding running back Todd Gurley. The junior averaged 13.2 yards per carry during the the Bulldogs’ season opener against the Clemson Tigers and finished the game with 198 rushing yards. Gurley has 44 yards on eight carries in the first half against South Carolina.

Of course, good offense makes a great defense. The Gamecocks have been able to control the football and capitalize on their drives. South Carolina held the ball for 17:28 minutes.

The combination of South Carolina’s offense clicking and more disciplined play on defense has helped Steve Spurrier‘s squad hold Georgia to less than half of the yardage the Gamecocks have given up on average this season.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, need to keep Gurley involved in the game plan and avoid critical mistakes. The running back had a 54-yard touchdown romp called back due to a holding penalty. The Gamecocks’ defense is playing better than expected, but Georgia can move the football. The Bulldogs simply need to capitalize to swing the game in their favor.

Steve Spurrier: RB Mike Davis ‘may go pro’

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South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier hasn’t fully committed to a single thing regarding running back Mike Davis this season.

Spurrier said Davis could miss the Gamecocks’ season opener against the Texas A&M Aggies. A week later the coach said Davis was “sort of doubtful” for the game against the East Carolina Pirates. Davis played in both games.

So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Spurrier remained noncommittal when asked about whether or not Davis will go pro after the season.

Prior to the start of the season, Spurrier proclaimed Davis would go pro “if he has a big year.” A slow start to the season obviously changed the coach’s tune.

After seeing what happened to former South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered knee injuries in consecutive seasons before declaring early for the NFL draft, Spurrier and his staff should be pushing Davis out the door toward a professional career.

Davis is currently the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with 24 carries for 116 yards. A strong effort against the sixth-ranked Georgia Bulldogs Saturday opposite the Bulldogs’ Todd Gurley will once again place Davis among the game’s top running backs. It was in this contest last year, Davis burst onto the scene with 149 rushing yards. Davis will need to play at a similar level for the Gamecocks to have a chance against Georgia.