Yeah, South Carolina lost a game to Vandy that it really needed. But from week 2 to week 3, the Gamecocks showed a lot of improvement. It looks like the Gamecocks' offensive line seemed to get a little cohesiveness in the second half of the Georgia game, and the team's offense found some of its identity in the pass.
South Carolina, and quarterback Chris Smelley (23 of 39 for 271 yards,) had struggled to find receivers to catch the ball other than Jared Cook and Kenny McKinley(injured.) But by the end of the game versus Georgia, wide receivers Mo Brown, Freddie Brown and Dion Lecorn had all made contributions. It seems Smelley was learning to look all over the field and WRs were getting open versus a good Bulldog defense. If that continues, the Gamecocks will be able to make up for the Vandy loss by taking a win over a team it will not be favored to beat. It's the SEC, which means a murderer's row and it will not be easy. But the Gamecocks showed they had heart - and a defense that has strength and talent - against Georgia. The Gamecocks also introduced freshman QB Stephen Garcia. With him in the mix, used in special situations, SC will only be more versatile as an offense.
If the Gamecocks learn and grow - and keeps its head up - the team will move in the right direction.
At Clemson, the Tigers have played an SEC foe and one from the ACC. The results have to be scary for the ever-hopeful Clemson fans, who talk of conference championships and BCS contention every off-season, only to be slammed into reality when the talk stops and the actual games begin.
What looks like a fair-to-middling Alabama squad, thoroughly dismantled a Tiger team, 34-10, that was penciled into the national picture by a slew of fawning, now egg-faced, pundits.
The bally-hooed backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller (0 yards rushing versus Bama) are constantly referred to as the top RB tandem in college football. What most leave out, is that "Thunder and Lightening" are not as effective as most teams' single back formations. And while Tiger QB Cullen Harper has been praised ad nauseam, he looks very average, even versus the poor teams that annually make up the bulk of Clemson's schedule.
Aside from the national embarrassment delivered to Tiger Head Coach Tommy Bowden by the Crimson Tide, Clemson returned to its usual band of weak sisters in week two. Padding its record, as is its custom, with a win over the Citadel, but the tigers did not look sharp.
A week later, it took Clemson three quarters to finally shake an N.C. State team that is clearly in the rebuilding stage.
The fact that the Tigers play in a very weak conference usually covers the sad truth that it is one of the weakest BCS schools in the country. And 2008 seems to be no different.
You can look for the tigers to feast on the down-trodden, but stumble against any opposition with half a heart and a few players.
The good news for Tiger fans, there are not many teams on Clemson's schedule with the resources and personnel a big school like Clemson can attract. In other words: Clemson's schedule is so weak, the Tigers can win most weeks just by showing up.
And for those looking to late November: if SC sustains the type of injuries it had in 07, the Tigers will have a chance to add it it win total versus SC. But if the Gamecocks can remain even relatively healthy, their team is a good bit ahead of Clemson, as far a college football on a major stage is concerned. And lucky for the Gamecocks, it gets to live like Clemson for the next two weeks, with games versus ACC-level opponents in Wofford and Alabama-Birmingham.
But if the Tigers and Gamecocks were to tee it up Sept. 20, I think we could assure that the Gamecocks would walk away with a convincing win.