Our friends at Garnet and Black Attack asked us some questions about Florida-South Carolina; we asked some of our own of GABA’s Kodi Remmers.
South Carolina had a chance to get back to Will Muschamp’s winning ways against Tennessee last Saturday, but lost its chance at a game-tying drive on a punt that caromed off a blocking player’s leg.
That’s “buzzard luck” by Muschamp’s own definition, to be sure. But does it feel like things like that happen to his teams at an alarming rate? Or is this more par for the course for a program that doesn’t need a star-crossed coach to have agonizing near misses?
You’re definitely correct in assuming the Chicken Curse will bedevil any and all South Carolina coaches (as well as a solid chunk of our athletic programs beyond football), but Will Muschamp does seem like an especially aggrieved victim. Gamecock fans have absolutely wondered the same — is this guy really that unlucky, or is it more that he’s consistently making bad decisions?
He pointed out at his press conference the other day that we actually have a winning record in one-score games, and while that admittedly surprised me, it also struck me as a bit of a silly comment. South Carolina has been in a ton of one-score games, and much of that is owed directly to his conservative, play-not-to-lose style of football that would rather nurse a three-point lead than add to it. I don’t know that it’s logical to brag about getting yourself out of those difficult situations when you’ve consistently game-planned yourself into them.
Mike Bobo is Muschamp’s latest hire at offensive coordinator, and might be the most simpatico one Muschamp has ever employed as a head coach. What’s your sense of how that partnership is going to work, and how did what the Gamecocks did on offense against Tennessee reflect progress or a lack thereof?
I’m slapping a big “TBD” on the Bobo experiment for now, because it was hard to get a true grasp on the offense’s performance against Tennessee when you factor in first-game jitters, a ton of rookie skill players, and a quarterback making his first start with the program. There were some really crisp, efficient, and nice-looking drives, but those were mixed in with a whole lot of (bad) punting and of course that killer pick-six. I think Bobo stubbornly tried to establish the run too much in the first half, but to his credit, made some good adjustments in the second half — and that’s something we haven’t seen around here in a while.
As the quarterback, Collin Hill is obviously key, but I’m probably more worried about the offensive line at this moment. Hill was sacked and pressured quite a bit against the Vols, and while a couple of those sacks were definitely on him, the guy was dead to rights far too quickly after the snap. He’s going to need to get the ball out quickly to succeed — I think Bobo also called a few too many slow-developing, downfield plays — but also, our largely anonymous receivers and running backs need to produce. Still a loooot of question marks for us here that largely come down to the ability to execute.
Muschamp’s never struggled with bringing in talented players, and South Carolina would seem to have some of them on this roster, even if it’s not as loaded as some of his Florida depth charts now look in retrospect. But the Gamecocks are clearly not on a constant ascent, and tantalizing results like a win over Georgia or a string of high-scoring affairs with a couple of close losses seem to be counteracted by seasons that aren’t as great as the best Spurrier ones as a whole and don’t show consistent progress.
Is there a chance that Muschamp’s just a great assembler of talent who will never quite develop it all at the same time and make it all congeal? Or is there still fervent hope that he’s close to a breakthrough if luck just breaks SC’s way once or twice?
I mean, I’d say there’s some hope, because he’s our guy right now and that’s unlikely to change until at least 2022, so we’re all crossing our fingers for something good to happen. But ultimately, Muschamp doesn’t have many defenders these days, and their numbers get smaller every week.
It’s been truly, indescribably bizarre how well he’s recruited at the quarterback position in particular, but that doesn’t mean anything if you can’t get it to translate to the field. Development has definitely been an Achilles heel for this coaching staff, and I’m sure going through offensive coordinators on an almost annual basis hasn’t helped with that, either. Injuries — as I know you’ll recall from the Gators’ time under him — are another consistent bugaboo that just doesn’t seem to go away. Some of that is certainly bad luck and freak accidents, but it feels like we’re dealing with a M.A.S.H. unit year in and year out. The strength and conditioning program needs a long look for sure.
From my vantage point, the Florida-South Carolina series has never really fully transformed into a rivalry in football, despite the Gamecocks becoming a thorn in Florida’s side under Spurrier and Muschamp’s hiring giving the annual meeting another subplot. (At present, I’d actually say men’s basketball is the most contentious series between the schools, an upset given where both baseball teams were at the beginning of the 2010s.)
Do you think this series could still become a rivalry? How so? Or am I off to say that it’s not in the first place?
This is an interesting question.
Given that South Carolina isn’t a charter member of the SEC, there’s some debate among fans about who our in-conference rival is. I’d say this has been increasingly solidified as Georgia over the years (and that’s how I personally see it), but there are still plenty of folks with a lot of antipathy toward either Florida or Tennessee.
I think, as with any rivalry, that this series needs more consistently close games, and more with some higher stakes; although Florida fell on harder times during the Muschamp and McElwain years, the programs just haven’t been on much of a level playing field with each other historically. Rivalries don’t need to be competitive or have championships on the line, of course, but I think it definitely helps absent other factors (such as being in-state programs, having a long history, etc.).
Oh, and I completely agree with you that men’s basketball and baseball are the foremost grudge matches between our schools. I’m a bit of an odd duck in that Gator football has never bothered me much, but I can’t say the same for hoops and baseball. Really juicy stuff there.
How do you think things go on Saturday?
Quite frankly, it’s gonna get ugly for the Gamecocks, barring something weird like Florida fumbling 800 times and otherwise being completely incapable of getting out of its own way (no, I’m not still bitter about that 2012 game or anything).
This should be a breezy two- or three-touchdown victory for the Gators, so as a Gamecock fan, I’m really just wanting to see signs of improvement from our young guys and for more of a coherent offensive identity to emerge. For us, this is definitely a season that’s less about wins and more about development.