South Carolina looks like the SEC's next champ - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

SEC Analysis: It is decided

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Kelcy Quarles (99) mans the middle of a talented defensive line for the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Source: USC Athletics) Kelcy Quarles (99) mans the middle of a talented defensive line for the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Source: USC Athletics)
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(RNN) – Week 1 is complete. That means it's time to honor the analyst tradition of taking a couple preconceived notions, mixing in a dash of limited evidence and making some unreasonably bold predictions.

To get the full effect, print this out, give it to a friend and have him read it in a loud, abusive manner. Everyone knows it isn't commentary without someone yelling it at you.

So, here goes. Meet your 2013 Southeastern Conference Champions: the South Carolina Gamecocks. Provided the Ol' Ball Coach gets out of his own way.

"We got a bunch of hurt guys, acting like they're really hurt," Steve Spurrier told reporters after the Aug. 12 practice. "So right now, they may not play [in the season opener]."

The guys in question were wideouts Damiere Byrd and Bruce Ellington (both sore hamstrings), along with All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (bruised shoulder).

When asked if he was trying to send a message for them to get healthy, Coach Grumpycat said "I don't know. Why don't y'all go talk to them?" before adding, "No, I'll handle those guys."

They all played, by the way.

This gets brought up after Clowney huffed and puffed his way through Thursday's 27-10 win over North Carolina. ESPN's sideline reporter asked Spurrier about his All-American at the half; it turned out Clowney had been battling a stomach virus … and his coach had no idea until midway through the game.

10-on-11

Lost in the talk of "Tummy-gate" was the performance put on by the rest of the gang Thursday. The defense held a good North Carolina offense to 2.8 yards per carry and 4.5 yards per pass, all while Clowney did little more than go "BOO!" to keep blockers occupied.

And an off-night due to a stomach bug, a no-huddle offense and the sweltering Columbia heat may be the best thing for USC. Think about it: The most talented, devastating player in college football is in the midst of a nine-day stretch hearing how he's not that good, not that motivated and not that worthy of the praise.

Giant shoulder, meet equally large Chip. He'll be with you all season.

Further confounding the opposition will be how the D-line duo of Gerald Dixon and Gerald Dixon Jr. are both playing college ball.

(Side note: They're half-brothers.)

Rear view

Quarterback Connor Shaw has to enjoy the familiar scenery. Directly in front of him are some really, really big tuckuses (tucki?), there for the singular purpose of keeping him safe.

One of USC's biggest "assets" (yep, went there) coming into 2013 was an offensive line returning four starters from last season. And they are all huge, averaging about 320 pounds. They mercilessly bullied Tar Heel defenders Week 1 as they opened running lanes, including the one that allowed Mike Davis to scurry 75 yards to the end zone.

The freshman tailback is a great complement to the O-line, too. He's a straight-ahead runner with little wasted motion and, as he showed on the TD gallop, can put on a burst of speed at the second level of the defense.

Two words for ya

Speaking of Shaw, here's hoping the Gamecock braintrust takes the glass half-full approach with their signal caller.

A debate on whether junior Dylan Thompson would take over the starting role went on through much of the offseason. The biggest knock against Shaw was he seemed hesitant at times to make a throw, electing to check down to a safer option or run the ball instead.

That may not be a bad thing. One of the senior's best qualities is he doesn't throw many interceptions (seven in 228 passing attempts last year). With a strong defense and an effective running game, USC can manage the clock and ensure teams get few opportunities off turnovers.

Meanwhile, Shaw can make plays with his feet and the occasional deep ball. It may not be dynamic, but the South Carolina faithful would rather win a defensive battle than lose an entertaining shootout.

He must stop taking so many hits, though. The senior QB has a bad habit of fighting for the extra yard when he runs and getting walloped by a defender.

In the words of the great Austrian philosopher Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Get down!"

(Side note: It's hard to find funny Schwarzenegger videos on YouTube without foul language in them. If you don't mind EXPLICIT, there are several.)

Quick notes on the other contenders

Alabama:

Nothing needs to be said about that defense. But an O-line replacing three starters gave up four sacks, and the run game only averaged 2.5 yards per carry against Virginia Tech. Can the offense right the ship before its Sept. 14 date with Texas A&M?

Florida:

The Gator defense looks stingy but not overpowering. The offense will have trouble against better opponents than Toledo. Don't be surprised if Miami takes them to the limit Saturday.

Georgia:

Mark Richt and Aaron Murray's record in big games: Zero-1 million. Not really, but it sure seems that way. With the Gamecocks next, UGA's season may be over before it got started.

LSU:

Some things to like from the Tigers: a win against TCU in Texas, and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron should be able to dice up college defenses after doing it in the NFL for so long. Still, "unforced errors" should be a stat kept solely for teams coached by Les Miles.

Texas A&M:

It may not matter if Alabama is playing well when they come to town. The Aggie defense allowed Rice more than 500 yards, and it's impossible to win a championship playing "race you to 50" every week. Also, Johnny Manziel knew he was talking smack to a team called the Owls, right?

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