After a loss like Tennessee the fanbase is understandably down on the team's prospects. And by a loss like that, I don't necessarily mean to an inferior team, I mean a close game in which the Gamecocks made so many mistakes. Despite the bad performance, Vegas seems optimistic about Carolina's chances. It was reported that one early, online sports book opened with USC favored by 5. Most normal, Vegas books opened with Missouri a 3 point favorite. Those 3 points usually represent homefield advantage. Most of the money then came in on South Carolina pushing the line down to 2.5.
Some analysts and fans as well as Vegas books are optimistic about Carolina's chances. Here are some reasons you should be too.
There are some people starting to debate whether he should be discussed alongside Marcus Lattimore and George Rogers. That's all you need to know about Davis. He has exceeded all expectations and lead the SEC in total rushing yards and rushing yards per game, 8 weeks into the season. As long as he's healthy Carolina has a shot to win any game on its schedule.
It can't be understated what a luxury it is to have a dependable, experienced and talented back up. Carolina has that. Thompson has played frequently, has been a starter and has played in hostile road environments. There's no reason to think he can't be good Saturday night.
And, the offense changes some with Thompson in the game. It is less the Lattimore-Elliott zone read, and more of the under center, I formation, air it out fun and gun type offense Florida ran in the 1990s. Steve Spurrier is good at both offenses, but the early one has quite the record of success.
The last few years Carolina has played one very bad game each year: 2010 Kentucky, 2011 Auburn and 2012 Florida. Florida wasn't a loss against a very beatable team, but it was bad because of how poorly the team played. This year there is a game in that category as well: Tennessee.
Every year the Gamecocks have bounced back. In 2010, they went to Vanderbilt, and beat them soundly. In 2011, they switched quarterbacks (like this year) and blasted Kentucky 54-3. In 2012, they got their offense on track, put up 38 on Tennessee, and won. This year...
Some of the defensive lapses early in the season have scarred Gamecocks' collective perception of their defense. The 4th quarters against Kentucky and Vanderbilt gave the skeptical all they needed to deride the results of the defense. But lately, things have been very different. The defense is rounding into shape, and playmakers are emerging. Arkansas was completely taken out of their game, and Tennessee was stuffed most of they day. The defense will be playing a better offense, but they should turn in a great performance.
South Carolina, like everybody, has injured players, but they are getting some key ones back. It looks like guard Ronald Patrick, who is very important to the offense's success, is going to be close to 100%. Kelcy Quarles looks like he may play, which is a big plus. And Carolina gets Chaz Elder, the starter at safety, back as well as JJ Marcus, who wasn't injured but ejected for yet another very questionable call.
James Franklin was having a great year until he got hurt. Maty Mauk, the young backup, had a great game against Florida, so how is this a reason to be optimistic? Mauk is clearly talented, but he is young and inexperienced. He may have another all-star game, but young quarterbacks are prone to mistakes and they are prone to blowing up sometimes. He may do this; he may not, but I'm betting he's well aware of Clowney's ability to demolish quarterbacks, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him rush some passes if he's feeling the heat.
Will Carolina win? Of course, I don't know, but if they do, it shouldn't be surprising given all the reasons above.