Wednesday, September 19, 2007

South Carolina: What to Expect

South Carolina is a pretty good team. Like a lot of SEC teams, they do some things very well and some things rather poorly. They're not a complete team, but they do some things well enough to win some games. They've been able to accentuate the positive enough to race out to a 3-0 start against Georgia and two patsies.

What do they do well? They run the ball. The duo of Corey Boyd and Mike Davis are averaging over 6.0 yards per carry each. Moreover, they were able to have success running the ball against Georgia, their lone good opponent, with 140 yards rushing. Corey Boyd carried the load with 14 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Mike Davis averaged over 6 yards per carry on 9 attempts.

What else do they do well? They play good defense. They held Georgia to 128 yards rushing, though they gave up a 100 yard rusher, allowing Knowshon Moreno to gain over 7.0 yards per carry. They mostly succeeding in the "rushing" game by sacking Matthew Stafford quite a lot. They forced Stafford to have an absolutely terrible game. He completed less than 50% of his passes, threw an interception without a touchdown pass, and averaged less than 5 yards per attempt. Plus he got sacked three times.

Their pass defense has been good all season as well. Against the patsies they've played, they haven't even given up 100 yards in the air per game, and the longest pass play completed against them so far this year went for 22 yards. They have not given up a passing touchdown.

Do they do anything else well? They kick and punt really well. Ryan Succop, in addition to having arguably the best name in the conference, is a really good kicker and punter. He's got good range on field goals, having hit from 40 and 41 so far this year. He hit three field goals to beat Georgia.

Now, where are they vulnerable? Their passing game has been very weak this year. Blake Mitchell has a GeauxTuscaloosa Quarterback Productivity Index of 4.43 yards per play, which is horrid. It's not the worst in the conference (thank you Brandon Cox and Michael Henig), but it's close, and it would have been worse than Brent Schaeffer's last year. For comparison, Casey Dick's GTQBPI is 6.58 yards per play. And Casey Dick is terrible.

I was a big Blake Mitchell fan in the pre-season. He had solid stats last year for the amount of time he played. I thought he was poised for a big senior season. Not so far, he isn't. And it's not going to be any easier for him this week. The LSU defense absolutely mauls drop-back pocket passers. We've faced three of them so far this season, and all three of them ended up being taken out of the game for poor performance.

We just get too much of a pass rush and we cover receivers too well for a pure drop back passer to have any success. The rush gets to them before they can find a receiver to throw to. Quarterbacks who can run and scramble for yards have been much more effective against us. South Carolina doesn't have a quarterback like that among the 3 they've played this year.

I also think they'll have a harder time running on this defense than they did against Georgia. I'm no trash-talker, but frankly this is the best defense in the country as far as anyone can tell. We give up 2.3 points per game. Corey Boyd and Mike Davis will get some yards, just like MSU's Anthony Dixon did. But we'll stop them enough to force a lot of 3rd and long yardage situations. Then we'll pin our ears back and come after Mitchell, letting our corners cover Kenny McKinley and the other receivers. Remember, Virginia Tech did not complete a single pass to a man being covered by any of our cornerbacks, even our backup cornerbacks. MTSU was only able to complete 8 passes all games, but I don't know if they got any against our corners.

So, to sum it up, South Carolina plays a very stout defense. They've let no one pass on them. Running on them is not particularly easy either. They run the ball well, and their kicking game is very good. Their passing game is terrible.

I think our defense can really disrupt their game, and force them into mistakes. They have thrown as many interceptions as touchdown passes this year, and we've been pretty good about getting turnovers. If we can get some points against their defense and turn them into a passing team, it's over. If they can keep it close and rely on their running game, that's their best chance. If they try to be one-dimensional in running though, I think we can stop them.

The key is going to be getting the same kind of jump on them we got on Virginia Tech. South Carolina doesn't have a come-from-behind style of offense. They have a grind-it-out style of offense. If they get behind by a couple of scores and need to get yardage, or get to the point where field goals don't help them, they're in real trouble.

And how do we get that kind of jump? Georgia showed that a good running back can get yards on them. I'm not sure we have a great offensive line at this point, but if we're going to get a jump on them, it's likely to come from the running game initially, and using that to open up the passing game.

That begs the next question: Flynn or Perrilloux? I think the answer is simple. If Flynn is 100%, play him. If Flynn is not 100%, then Perrilloux is probably the better player.

1 comment:

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