Note: cocknfire wrote this, but he's stuck with some wonky WiFi that won't let him post it right now. So here it is. -Y2
The quarterback drama in Columbia this week shouldn't mask the fact that the Gamecocks play a pretty decent team when they square off with East Carolina. The Spurrier-era Gamecocks have made a history of traveling to North Carolina in recent years in a recruiting play that brings them to this year's high-risk, low-reward matchup. Win, and South Carolina simply does what a Top 15 team is supposed to do. Lose, and the wheels quickly come off what could be the greatest season in the history of the program.
So the stakes were high even before Spurrier announced that he would go with Connor Shaw over Stephen Garcia in the first quarter. Any other coach who did that would face calls from the fan base for a psychiatric evaluation, but Spurrier's record of juggling quarterbacks at Florida wins him some rope. (Even if his results with that kind of experiment have been decidedly mixed in Columbia.)
For its part, East Carolina plays the role of the scrappy mid-major that sometimes pulls off the upset but more often falls just short. The Pirates haven't defeated a ranked BCS team since beating West Virginia in the second week of the 2008 season, though they did knock off a ranked Houston team in 2009. Since the West Virginia win, ECU is 1-7 against BCS teams, ranked or not.
The best hope for East Carolina is for their hyperkinetic, Mike Leach-style passing attack to give South Carolina's uneven secondary fits. Going into the game without wideouts Michael Bowman and Justin Jones is a setback there, but maybe not a gamechanger. Facing Marcus Lattimore with a relatively green linebacking corps doesn't help things, nor does trying to contain Alshon Jeffery without top cornerback Emaniel Davis.
So look for a game that's close early, with South Carolina pulling away late. But it's enough to make a South Carolina fan nervous even without the head ball coach playing musical snaps.
South Carolina 55, East Carolina 35