After traveling to Orlando to barely defeat the UCF Knights, the Gamecocks return to their home field in hopes of earning a win against Kentucky. While the #12 ranked South Carolina is expected to beat Kentucky this Saturday, the Cocks have a few things to overcome. Starting quarterback Connor Shaw may not be taking the field against the Wildcats after a shoulder injury in last week’s game. To add to the injuries, running back Brandon Wilds dislocated his elbow and will be sitting out this week as well. Defense hasn’t lived up to Gamecock fans’ expectations with Jadeveon Clowney and crew looking out of shape. And although the 3-1 Gamecocks are sure to beat the 1-3 Cats, here are a few things South Carolina can learn from the top 5 teams in the nation as they look ahead.
Make Fewer Mistakes
Penalties cost teams yards. The fewer mistakes, the fewer penalties, the better position your team is in. #5 Stanford averages 38.5 penalty yards per game versus South Carolina with 45.2 penalty yards per game. The Gamecocks could improve their position as a team by learning from Stanford and making fewer mistakes.
Use Every Opportunity that Presents Itself
Just as in life, when the field presents an opportunity every good football player recognizes it and uses it to his advantage. Ohio State can attest to this with an unforgettable play that left a referee in the midst of trouble. In the Ohio State – Florida A&M game, running back Jordan Hall was presented with an unconventional opportunity that led him to use the referee as his lead blocker to score a Buckeye touchdown. While using the referee as a shield isn’t condoned, South Carolina needs to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself in order to climb the rankings ladder.
See the play for yourself. Check out BleacherReport.com’s GIF here.
Defense Needs to Step It Up
It’s no secret that South Carolina’s defense has looked a bit sloppy this year. Last year, fans watched Jadeveon Clowney sack quarterbacks left and right, but his performance this year has left many fans disappointed. In 2012 Clowney racked up a total of 13 sacks making him fifth in school history in terms of total sacks. This season, Clowney seems to be off to a slow start with only 2 sacks in the last 4 games. Kelcy Quarles is actually leading the team in terms of sacks with one more than Clowney.
While it is still early in the season, Clowney may want to study Clemson’s Vic Beasley if he wants to stay on track to beat South Carolina’s school record of 29 sacks. Beasley is currently tied at 2nd in the nation with 6 total sacks this season. With only 8 sacks total last year, Beasley is showing improvement as a defensive player and has played a huge role in Clemson’s success. Beasley managed to earn two sacks against Georgia, the only team that has defeated the Gamecocks. If the South Carolina’s defense wants to prove themselves, they’ll need to step it up.
Oregon may be the #2 ranked team in the nation, but they’re ranked at the bottom of the list for one thing…time of possession. Oregon averages 25:02 time of possession for this season. Although the Ducks may not have the ball for the most amount of time, they are still an undefeated top ranked team. How, you ask? Simple. They score quickly.
South Carolina is in the middle of the pack with 30:37 average time of possession this year. With Shaw injured and Thompson stepping up as quarter back this week, the Gamecocks could benefit by learning from Oregon and surprising Kentucky by scoring quickly.
Anyone who follows college football knows that Alabama is the team to beat. After securing the SEC Championship and National Championship in 2012, Alabama is out to do it again. AJ McCarron leads the nation in terms of passing efficiency and proved he is a force to be reckoned with by leading his team to victory against Texas A&M this year. If Shaw (or Thompson) want to play with the big boys, they’ll need to improve their passing efficiency, and who better to learn from than Alabama.
Although, all my money is on South Carolina to defeat Kentucky this week, the Gamecocks may want to consider these lessons when preparing for the remainder of the season (especially the Clemson game).