After a decisive win against in-state opponent Appalachian State, the Pirates have their sights set on SEC power South Carolina, who is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation. South Carolina, who is coming off a 17-13 win in Nashville, did not impress as Vanderbilt gave the Gamecocks all they could handle.
ECU will be without the services of senior nose guard Michael Brooks due to a knee injury and linebacker Montese Overton, who is still trying to make his return from a concussion. On the bright side, all indications show that senior cornerback Leonard Paulk will make his season-debut Saturday. It will be a homecoming for Paulk, who is from Columbia, and his brother Rodney played for the Gamecocks.
Looking at South Carolina’s injury report, the big question this week was whether or not Connor Shaw would be able to play. The Gamecock quarterback injured his throwing shoulder against Vanderbilt and had not practiced until yesterday. Head coach Steve Spurrier has yet to announce whether Shaw would be ready or not, but it appears he will try and give it a go. With the exception of Shaw, South Carolina has no other concerns injury-wise
In 2011, these teams met in Charlotte in what was Shaw’s first collegiate start and it didn’t last long. The Pirates raced to a 17-0 lead, forcing the Ol’ Ball Coach to make a change at quarterback. With Stephen Garcia under center, the Gamecocks started to rally and eventually outlasted the Pirates 56-37.
The keys to the game for ECU this week are simple. First, try and make South Carolina one-dimensional and force Connor Shaw to win the game with his arm. This is easier said than done because the Gamecocks run the read option very effectively with their Heisman candidate at tailback in Marcus Lattimore, who scored USC’s only two touchdowns against Vanderbilt. The other key was the Achilles heel for the Pirates in last year’s meeting, turnovers. ECU’s five turnovers singlehandedly let South Carolina back into the game and eventually propelled the Gamecocks ahead. If the Pirates can play smart football as they did against App. State, only taking two penalties, and win the turnover battle, they may have a chance to pull off the upset Saturday afternoon.
I don’t see it happening though.
Prediction: South Carolina- 31, East Carolina- 17