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South Carolina plays Alabama on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium. Fittingly, everyone wants to talk about a Saturday way back in 2010.

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That was the last time the Gamecocks and the Crimson Tide met on a football field, and famously, it may have been the highwater mark of the Steve Spurrier era at South Carolina. It was the day everything went right. The day Stephen Garcia played like a Heisman trophy candidate.

Everyone knows the story. South Carolina upset No. 1 Alabama 35-21 en route to the school’s first and only SEC Eastern Division championship.

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“The day” is forever embedded in Gamecock lore.

But folks, I’m here to tell you it needs to stay right there when it comes to this year’s game. Any delusions of Rocky Balboa toppling Ivan Drago should be filed away. This one looks a lot more like Drago vs. Apollo Creed, and we all know how that one ends.

Comparisons of this year’s game to the one played in 2010 simply aren’t applicable.

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The Gamecocks are an unranked 25-point underdog Saturday. The 2010 Gamecocks were No 19 in the country with the No. 1 Crimson Tide favored by just 7.5.

Nine years ago, Steve Spurrier out-maneuvered Nick Saban. Will Muschamp and a variety of other former Saban assistants are 0-16 against their former boss.

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This year’s Crimson Tide team is littered with first-round draft picks. The Gamecocks have a solid SEC roster with a few guys who will play on Sundays.

Keys

  • Which one will he be? Freshman Ryan Hilinski looked like the second coming of Steve Taneyhill as he engineered a 72-10 blowout of Charleston Southern in his first career start. The Gamecocks need to do everything in their power to ensure he doesn’t look more like Chris Smelley this week.

Some high-percentage completions early in the game would help, but establishing some semblance of a running game would be even better.

  • Limit the explosive plays: This one is easier said than done against the Crimson Tide’s high-octane offense. Saturday afternoon would be an excellent time for a Gamecocks’ secondary thought to be one of the team’s defensive strengths to play up to its potential.

It’s impossible to think the Crimson Tide won’t get their points, but making Alabama work their way down the field at a more methodical pace will be crucial if the Gamecocks hope to stay in the game.

Roll the dice

Will Muschamp has often drawn the ire of South Carolina fans for a conservative brand of football. Rest assured, if there’s any chance the Gamecocks are still hanging around in the fourth quarter come Saturday, it won’t be because they punted on fourth-and-short.

The Gamecocks have nothing to lose here. It’s not time to empty the playbook, but they’d better unstick some pages.

Best bets

The betting public loves Alabama in this one, driving the number from 21 points all the way up to 25. This looks like an instance where they could be right, but it’s tough to imagine Saban running it up on a former assistant.

The safer bet is the total set at over/under 60.

The pick: Over 60.

Re-predicting the record

The Charleston Southern win doesn’t move the needle here, but a solid showing against Alabama certainly could. Still, there’s Tennessee’s terrible start to consider. Could there be a possible break in the schedule?

Probable wins: Vanderbilt, App State, Tennessee.

Probable losses: Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M, Clemson.

Tossups: Missouri, Kentucky, Florida.

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Brantley Strickland, formerly sports editor for The Times and Democrat, now works as an economic developer for Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance. Reach him at strickland.brantley@gmail.com.

 

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