It's too little to call the next two weeks a two-week season for South Carolina. It's more like two one-week seasons. Lose to East Carolina -- which is not entirely inconceivable -- and the wheels likely come off of 2014 completely, with the possibility of South Carolina missing a bowl for the first time since 2007 clearly entering the picture. Lose to Georgia a week from today, and the already fading dreams of a run at the SEC East are completely obliterated, with coming in second the best possible objective and coming in third or -- gulp -- fourth looking more likely.
First things first. East Carolina is probably a more formidable opponent for the Gamecocks than most people realize. The Pirates also have an Air Raid offense, something that has to terrify South Carolina fans who just watched another Air Raid scheme put up 50 in Williams-Brice. Of course, not all Air Raids are the same, and East Carolina doesn't have the talent that Texas A&M does -- but there's a not-insubstantial risk that the Pirates could take an early lead, South Carolina's boom-or-bust offense could come up empty on a couple of drives, and the game starts to slip away from the Gamecocks. And there's also the chance of a look-ahead given the make-or-break game against Georgia next week.
The happy news for South Carolina is that ECU's defense was decimated in the offseason -- three starters return from the 2013 team, and one week was probably not enough to get them up to speed. Anyone who watched the Gamecocks against the Aggies last week has to be dubious about South Carolina's ability to stop the Pirates, and while East Carolina held North Carolina Central to 174 yards last week -- well, what does that mean, really? South Carolina opens this one about a two-touchdown favorite, more or less, and I think that's probably about right. Look for the Gamecocks to outperform it slightly in a performance that might still raise more questions than answers.
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Brandon's Pick: South Carolina 56, East Carolina 34