South Carolina Claims Back-To-Back Wins over Clemson

November 28, 2010

The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Clemson Tigers for the second consecutive year, 29-7.

The Gamecocks kept the momentum rolling since the win over Florida, and likely did not give Clemson their best, reserving that for next week’s SEC Championship game against Auburn.

Stephen Garcia was 14 of 29 passing for 227 yards and two touchdowns.  Alshon Jeffery, asserting why he is a Biletnikoff Award finalist, caught five passes for 141 yards and a touchdown.

The key to the game, however, was the play of Marcus Lattimore.  Lattimore only had 48 yards rushing and added 41 yards receiving.

This shows for the first time this season, the Gamecocks won without a spectacular game by the true freshman phenom.  Lattimore missed the game against Vanderbilt.

The Gamecocks have struggled in each of the games he has done poorly in, losing all of them.  When Lattimore is not on the field or not effective, the passing game often has not done the job.

Granted, Clemson’s defensive line might be the best they will face all season.  Da’Quan Bowers is considered a top-5 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.

At the end of the day, it shows the Gamecocks and the rest of the country that they can win meaningful games without an effective Lattimore.  That is huge in keeping the momentum and confidence rolling on to next week.

Speaking of next week, the biggest game in the South Carolina football program occurs, as the Gamecocks play in their first SEC Championship game.  Auburn and South Carolina met back in September, where the Gamecocks let one slip away.

Keep a look out for preview posts on Auburn-South Carolina, as Section 26 Sports will cover the SEC Championship game for you, providing previews and picks for Saturday’s game.


Jimmie Johnson Wins 5th Consecutive NASCAR Title

November 22, 2010

With his second place finish on Sunday at Homestead, Jimmie Johnson clinched his fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship.

Does Johnson have your respect now?

Seemingly, NASCAR fans and critics always seem to find something that takes away from Johnson’s championship.  However, this year, he actually had to earn it.

Entering the Ford 400, Johnson was fifteen points behind Denny Hamlin in the standings.  Hamlin was earning all the publicity about being able to hold on and snap Johnson’ streak.

Johnson also had all the negativity.  This team seemed beatable for the first time in five years.  This became most evident with the “crew swap” during the race at Texas.

Hamlin wrecked on lap 25.  While not suffering severe damage, it put Hamlin at a disadvantage early on, in addition to the 38th starting position.

Kevin Harvick, also in the mix, but a longer-shot, had a crucial pit-road speeding penalty which set him back.  However, Harvick would have needed both Hamlin and Johnson to have issues to have a legitimate shot.

However, Johnson, normally being able to come in to Homestead only having to finish in the top-20, was smooth and steady.  Johnson finished second, only to Carl Edwards, who had the fastest car most of the day.

This has to be the sweetest championship of the five for Johnson, for reasons on and off the track.

As previously mentioned, Johnson had to fight all the way to the final race for this championship.  In fact, he did not even hold the points lead.  He was not even the best driver during the ‘Chase’ races.  He only won one race.

Not saying he did not do it in previous years, but this one did not come easy.

Second, he got to celebrate with his family.  Midseason, Johnson and his wife, Chandra, had their first child, Genevieve.  Johnson said in his celebration that she, Genevieve, was the greatest trophy of his life.

Finally, entering this season, there was a lot of speculation on if crew chief Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports (Hendrick now holds the record for most championships) would come to a contract agreement.  They did, and the run continued.  Knaus has continued to assert himself as one of, if not the best crew chief in NASCAR history.  Knaus might also be the best ‘coach’ right now in sports.

To all the naysayers, Johnson won this one fair-and-square.  He might not have had the best season, but he is still the best driver.  Homestead did not amount a victory lap as in past seasons.  People might not like it, but let’s celebrate the greatness of Johnson’s feat, one that might never be accomplished in any sport ever again.

Johnson is the sport’s greatest driver in this era of NASCAR.  He is now a five-time-consecutive-defending champion.

Can he just get your respect, now?

Podcast for 11.17.10

November 17, 2010

We talk about the upcoming SEC Championship game and what that might mean for South Carolina moving forward. Clemson’s heartbreaking loss to FSU. Michael Vick explodes against Washington (not literally, mind you).

Click here to listen to the show.

Gamecocks Beat Gators; Go to SEC Championship Game

November 14, 2010

The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Florida Gators 36-14 on Saturday night in Gainesville.

The victory clinches the SEC Eastern Division Title for the Gamecocks, and a chance to play for the SEC Championship on December 4th in Atlanta.

It is the first Eastern Division title for the Gamecocks since going to the SEC in 1992.  It is also the Gamecocks first ever win in “The Swamp.”

Marcus Lattimore led all teams and offensive players with 41 carries (school record) for 207 yards and 3 touchdowns.  He also added 2 catches for 31 yards, including a key catch nearing the end of the 1st half.

Stephen Garcia, who has received a lot of criticism from Steve Spurrier and a certain columnist from this site, played the smartest game of his career.  Garcia went 15 for 22, 156 yards.  He also added 38 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

Luckily for the Gamecocks, this season had some lows that will be forgotten, but should not be overlooked.  There were also many highs, and the hope is those will continue.

South Carolina will face Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.  Back on September 25th, the Tigers defeated the Gamecocks 35-27 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

There is no question that freshman phenom Marcus Lattimore is the key for the Gamecocks.  The offense has no firepower when Lattimore has missed all or parts of three games this season.

For Auburn, the news and team revolves around quarterback Cameron Newton.  However, the question of will he play will linger until the NCAA rules on the investigation of a ‘pay-to-play’ situation.

If Newton does play, he is the best player in college football, hands down.  Marcus Lattimore might be the most instrumental freshman in the country.  Newton is the most instrumental player in the country.  Auburn would not have the potential of heading to a National Championship game if Newton was not the quarterback.

The Gamecocks will have a chip on their shoulder after losing to an Auburn team they should have beaten, if not for turnovers by Stephen Garcia.  The results of the next two weeks for both teams will be crucial in picking a winner for the SEC Championship.

26 Things to Watch Until Next Saturday

November 10, 2010

Since there will be no show this Saturday, November 13th, there would be nothing better to point out 26 things that might happen in the next week and a half.

Some of them have no relevance or are sarcastic remarks about things that are not important.  However, it will give some food for thought.

1.  The Gamecocks and Gators battle for the SEC East – The winner of this game gets to face a team from the mighty SEC West in Atlanta on December 4th.

The bad news:  one of these teams will have to face a team from the SEC West.  The Western Division is so much better than the East this year, that you almost wish that two teams from the SEC West would play in the championship game.  Unfortunately, the rules don’t work that way.  Unfortunately, the winner of this game will likely be throttled by any team in the SEC West.

2.  Auburn’s Cameron Newton is not ineligible – It seems like nobody can accept that Newton is better than everyone in college football.

A week after rumors that Newton was purchased by Auburn, now news comes out that he cheated on tests while at the University of Florida.

While that is no laughing matter, let us not take away from the fact that Newton turned his life around from the mistakes he made with the Gators.

Oh, and this just in, Cameron Newton just kicked a puppy.

3.  TCU is for real, just don’t tell the BCS that – What is it going to take for people to realize that TCU actually deserves a spot in the National Championship?

After stomping over the 5th-ranked Utah Utes, TCU was still stuck at third in the BCS.  Utah did not get passed the 50-yard line until mid-way through the second half.

Everyone entered this season talking about Boise State’s chances to make the title game, but TCU quietly has become in the driver’s seat as the non-BCS team to play for a national championship.

While it was just Utah, they aren’t your everyday non-BCS team.

4.  There is no dominate NFL team – The closest thing to the best team in the NFL is the Pittsburgh Steelers.  But they are only tied for first place in the AFC North.

Normally at this point in the season, there is still an undefeated team or two, typically the Indianapolis Colts.  There is also at least one team on the verge of clinching a spot in the postseason.

This is truly a league of parity right now, and for the NFL, that is not what you wanted.  Potentially on the verge of a work stoppage, the NFL was hoping for a great season, not one of multiple controversies and lousy play.

5.  Jimmie Johnson will win at Phoenix – After an embarassing run at Texas, which included switching the pit crews with a teammate, Johnson will come out a determined driver at Phoenix.

Johnson, usually up by over 100 points by the second to last race of the season, is actually second in points to Denny Hamlin.

The drive for five has been a rough road for Johnson, but you can never overlook a four-time consecutive defending champion.

6.  Tennessee will win out and go to a bowl game – This would mean the team would have to win every game the rest of the season, but their schedule is relatively easy.

Tennessee faces Ole Miss this week, followed by games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky.  It is not an easy road, but very doable.

It won’t be a premier bowl, but the strong run to the finish will put the Volunteers in a lower-tier bowl.  Plus, they have also found their quarterback in Tyler Bray.

7.  Oregon will lose this season – Oregon, dominating teams all season, will lose before this season is over.  Unfortunately for the Ducks, that will cost them a chance at a national championship.

Oregon faces California, Arizona, and Oregon State to round out their season.  They have also lost their backup quarterback, Nate Costa, for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.

Oregon is an extremely fast team, but one of those teams will trip up the Ducks chance for an undefeated season.

7.  Eric Mangini is a ‘Man’gician – Cleveland Browns coach Eric Mangini seems to pull off miraculous wins left and right.  He beat the defending Super Bowl champion’s New Orleans Saints and the New England Patriots.

Both times, Mangini has just flat out beaten these teams.  The favorites were outplayed on both occasions by the Browns.  Also, don’t overlook the play of Colt McCoy.  Once thought to be on the bench most of the season as a rookie, McCoy has looked impressive in each game he has played.

8. Arkansas slams South Carolina – In a meaningless game for South Carolina, the Gamecocks looked like they could not even beat Furman right now.

It was their worst game of the season, and it came at the worst moment.  With Florida coming up, the Gamecocks have no momentum heading towards Gainesville.

In addition, the fans were embarrassing to South Carolina again.  Shots of a empty Williams-Brice Stadium was all over television, displaying that most of the fans of the team, only care if South Carolina is winning.  You will never be a powerhouse football program if 75% of the fans leave at halftime.

9.  The next NFL coach to go:  Brad Childress – Yes, the Vikings did win on Sunday, but it was a game that Arizona lost.

It is very clear that the Vikings should not have welcomed back Brett Favre and should not have re-acquired Randy Moss.

It is also clear that coaching has a large part in this team’s failures.  Adrian Peterson and the running game has disappeared, and a once stout defense has some holes.

A team should not fall off so much from one year to the next, but Childress’ coaching and questionable personal decisions will cost him his job, potentially before the end of the season.

10.  It will get worse in Dallas before it gets better – After firing Wade Phillips on Monday, Dallas looks to regroup for the future with Jason Garrett as the new head coach.

However this is a team that can go two ways, up or farther down.  With so many personalities on the team, Dallas is more likely to self-destruct as this miserable season continues.

That is where Garrett has to step-up.  He has to figure out which players continue to play their hearts out, and which players give up on the season.  The players that play hard, have the upper-hand in earning their stars for 2011.

11.  Bruce Ellington will be better than Devan Downey – Sure it is a bold prediction after only one exhibition game, but he performed that well.

There were times watching the freshman point guard for South Carolina where he bursted down to the other end of the floor in the time of blinking an eye.

He tossed up a miracle shot at the end of the first half that somehow went in as time expired.

The Gamecocks and Ellington are going to take some hits this season; but watch out as this young team that Darrin Horn has put together matures.

12.  Bruce Pearl must have a great season to stay at Tennessee – While it was merely an exhibition game, it was a loss to Division-II opponent Indianapolis.

Bruce Pearl also has been in the news with recruiting violations not only while at Tennessee, but throughout his coaching career.

If Pearl wants to stay as the Volunteers’ coach after this season, he must show that the exhibition loss was only a fluke and this team will contend for an SEC title in the 2010-11 season.

Should Pearl not do that, I-40 or I-75 can take you out of Knoxville, depending on which direction you want to go.

13.  The NFL will suspend someone for hitting after this week – It was another rough week in the NFL.  Green Bay Packers S Nick Collins was fined $50,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Dallas Cowboys WR Roy Williams.

After the crackdown on hits, the NFL really had no issues.  The players seemed to ease up for a week or two, in hope of letting this storm pass over.

The NFL has only fined players since the declaration that they would suspend players.  The NFL might be ready to send the message that they are serious and don’t have a problem sitting players for hitting.

14.  Ellis Johnson and Lorenzo Ward are fighting for their jobs – South Carolina Assistant Head Coach for Defense Ellis Johnson and Defensive Coordinator Lorenzo Ward are fighting for their jobs as the Gamecocks’ defensive secondary refuse to stop a passing game.

South Carolina was lit up by a freshman quarterback two weeks ago against Tennessee (Tyler Bray), and then there was Ryan Mallett (no explanation needed there).  While depth is an issue, the Gamecock defense was supposed to be a strength of this team.

However, the defensive effort against Kentucky in the second half, was not an abhorrition.  That game revealed a serious problem for this team.  The repeated breakdown and the drop-off from a year ago puts Johnson and Ward on the hot seat.

15.  SC’s Women’s Basketball will have a better record than the men – Since both Darrin Horn and Dawn Staley arrived at the beginning of 2008, the men and Darrin Horn have had the upper hand.  Not so fast, my friend.

The women, with some addition by subtraction in terms of Kelsey Bone, might try and make a legitimate run.  Staley is a good coach, and the university is giving her time.

However, the women must start making strides this season.  Staley’s job is not in jeopardy, but it could be.  Many of the players recruited by Staley have had time to gel, so an improvement is expected.

Meanwhile, the men are rebuilding with Horn’s recruits.  The only holdover from the Dave Odom-era is Sam Muldrow, who is expected to contribute big time.  This team is still waiting on the return of sophomore Ramon Galloway from a broken foot, and the hopeful emergence of some freshmen to be competitive.

In short, the men will have a tough year; the women look to compete.

16.  There will be no surprises with the MLB awards – People will be looking for upset winners for Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winners for the 2010 season.

For each league, there are the favorites for the award, and generally, there will not be anyone upset over who wins the awards.

Also, like normal, the announcements will come and go without much pomp and circumstance.  That is a far cry from when everybody spend days speculating on MLB award winners.

17.  Virginia Tech will still go to a BCS game – When Virginia Tech lost to Boise State to open the season, it is excusable; Boise State is a good team.  Lose to James Madison, well you know the answer.

However, those were Virginia Tech’s only losses this season.  The Hokies are in position to win the ACC and return to a BCS game.  Still like the BCS?

Love or hate the BCS, Virginia Tech has done everything they were expected to do.  Frank Beamer once again asserted why he has been with the Hokies for so long, and how success leads to job security.

18.  The NCAA is clearly investigating Cameron Newton – Already referencing this, it needs to be done so again.

There is no question that the NCAA is investigating Newton.  Typically, you can tell it when tidbits of information surrounding a player is continuously revealed.

Auburn has little they can do about this now.  If Newton was ineligible, they would already have to give up ll the wins this season, meaning it makes no sense to sit him to try to ‘save the season.’

It would truly be a shame if an incredible athlete like Newton, would be sullied by this investigation.

19.  Terrell Owens makes a team bad – It did not even take a full season for Cincinnati Bengals’ WR Terrell Owens to make his presence known.

Normally Owens gets along with everyone in the first season or two before he forces his personality on his teammates.  This was quite evident in Monday’s game against the Steelers as Owens began to yell at Carson Palmer.

Owens still believes that he is the best receiver in the league.  However, Owens is no more than a complimentary receiver that cannot run routes and cannot make the easy catch.

20.  Fear the Beard – As one bearded man goes away, San Francisco Giants’ reliever Brian Wilson, another returns to the spotlight.

Conan O’Brien returns to television after nine months of being censored from television.  Why does this apply to a sports blog?

Both would help out the rest of the world by shaving the beard off.  Raise some money for charity.

21.  Jon Miller and Joe Morgan leave Sunday Night Baseball – ESPN announced that the duo will not return to its Sunday Night Baseball telecasts in 2011.

Morgan’s contract expired and will not be renewed.  Miller will be offered to return as a baseball announcer for ESPN Radio’s baseball coverage.  That isn’t a slap in the face.

Perhaps, this means that Jon Sciambi will get a chance to be the new voice of Sunday Night Baseball, after Miller and Morgan went 21 years.

22.  Without Lattimore, the Gamecocks have nothing – In games against Kentucky and Arkansas, the Gamecocks have been forced to operate the offense without freshman phenom Marcus Lattimore.

It is nice when one guy brings such talent to an offense, but no team can fall flat on its face when he goes out of the lineup.

This team goes when Lattimore goes.  When he is on the sidelines, this team is lost and could not beat an average team offensively.

23.  Dolphins give up on Chad Henne – Sure this might be a little over the top, but explain to me what you are gaining by starting Chad Pennington?

Pennington has the intangibles, and he has an arm that can make a throwing motion, but the ball doesn’t go anywhere.  Henne at this point is the better quarterback, even if he has thrown 4 interceptions in his last two games.

This is a desperation move by the Dolphins, that will soon become an epic fail.

24.  Wade, James, and Bosh…the terrifice trio – Maybe not.

It has been more of a one man show of Dwyane Wade.  Wade was responsible for every point in overtime against Utah on Tuesday night.

Eric Spoelstra has to feel that seat getting warm with the poor start of the Miami Heat.  Pat Riley, although he has denied it, has to be licking his chops to get the opportunity to coach this team.

25.  College Basketball Starts this week – The most exhilarating sport in college finally returns.

Four more teams get to play in the NCAA Tournament this year.  March is just around the corner and these games are pivotal in building that resume.

At the same time, you can overcome losing early.  Figure out the problems in November, so that you can win the games that count in February.

26.  Congratulations – You actually read through all of this.  Feel free to give yourself a hand-slap; you deserve it.

We will return on Saturday, November 20th at 8 am on WUSC.  Enjoy your sports!

Jones Left No Choice in Firing Phillips

November 8, 2010

According to multiple reports, the Dallas Cowboys have fired head coach Wade Phillips after starting the 2010 NFL season 1-7.

Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett will take over head coaching duties.

After spending the first eight games supporting Phillips, Cowboys’ President Jerry Jones was left no choice but to fire Phillips, not necessarily because of poor play, but  circumstances allowed the inevitable move to occur.

Games where ridiculous penalties, inability to control a team, injuries, and unproductive talent all were big contributors to the firing.

However, after last night’s 45-7 beatdown by the Green Bay Packers, it was obvious that Jones could no longer sit in the media and state his confidence in Phillips.

Phillips becomes the first Cowboys’ coach to be fired mid-season.  His replacement is former quarterback and current offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, once thought to be coach-in-waiting.

The injury to Tony Romo, a broken collarbone, was probably the breaking point for Jones and Phillips.  After the injury, any chances of the Cowboys’ making a run with such a talented team were remote.

What happened after the game last night was the Cowboys’ owner with a empty look on his face.  He knew something had gone terribly wrong.  Was it coaching?  Was it talent?  Probably a little bit of both.

We have learned with the New York Yankees that you can buy all the talent in the world, and still not win.  This year, that is what Jones tried to do, and it failed miserably.  More than likely, for the first time, Jones failed.

Now they look to Jason Garrett, who has the rest of this season to prove that he is a head coach.  Also, it will be talent evaluation time.  The remaining coaching staff needs to figure out who quits and who continues to play despite the down season.

That is how you start rebuilding.  Plus, tanking to get the first overall pick in the draft, might not be a bad idea either.

NFL’s Coaches on the Hot Seat

November 4, 2010

At roughly the halfway point of the 2010 NFL season, means it is a good time to look at coaches who will not have jobs at this point next season, or at least a job with the same team they are with now.

Some of these are based on performance, some of them are just because it is time for a change.  All of these coaches often have only themselves to blame for why they will not have jobs in 2011.

Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys – Injuries, a lack of discipline, and a lack of ability will help Phillips not have a job next season.  There is a good chance he might not even make it through the rest of this season.

The shoulder injury to Tony Romo gives owner Jerry Jones a legitimate reason to fire Phillips, and figure out which players quit on the team.  Those guys should not be back next season either.

Phillips will find a job as a defensive coordinator, a task that he has always been capable of mastering.  As for Dallas, it is very hard to tell what act Jones would want to bring to ‘America’s Team’ next year.

John Fox, Carolina Panthers – Never have I seen a coach or a team with a lack of desire to play football.

The Panthers, with only one win this season, have looked disinterested and unprepared in every game this year.  A running game that was supposed to be led by Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams has been non-existant.

The lone reason why Fox will remain the Panthers’ coach through the remainder of the season:  his contract runs out at the end of the year.

Despite the poor coaching the last few years, Fox has been linked to head coaching jobs in both Dallas and Cleveland.  The Panthers’ fans are hoping that former Pittsburgh Steelers’ coach Bill Cowher will be the savior.  However, this mess might be getting too much to attract Cowher.

Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings – Without everything going on with Brett Favre, Childress probably would have been held off until the section on looking towards next year.  However, the Vikings’ on-field play and the Favre issues has Childress here.

For a team to fall off so much never sets well with the fans or ownership.  A error in judgment acquiring Randy Moss and always having to answer questions about Favre has left Childress on the hot seat.

Favre will retire at the end of the season, and the Vikings will be looking for a new coach.  For Childress, Dallas could be a potential destination for him as well.

Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers – Fans in San Francisco are glad to have the Giants to have something to be happy about.  The football team, who was supposed to take the next step, has been mediocre at best.

After an impressive showing in the second half of last year, pigskin prognosticators predicted the 49ers to be on top of the NFC West.

Declarations by ownership of the team still making the playoffs will cost Singletary his job.  Singletary will likely find a job as a defensive coordinator before getting another shot as a coach.  There is no telling where San Francisco might go for a new head coach.

Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers – With the talent this team has, letting LaDanian Tomlinson walk at the end of last season has proven to be an error in judgment.

The Chargers this season have managed no offense and no defense.  Philip Rivers has no wide receivers to throw to, even with getting Vincent Jackson back from a contract holdout.

Turner undoubtedly will get a job as an offensive coordinator, or even end up as the next Cowboys’ head coach.  The Chargers will probably find a coach who can continue the development of Rivers (unless he’s reached his peak).

Several coaches will probably get one more shot to get it right.  These coaches will find the seat getting a little warm as 2011 comes around.

Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals – The quarterback controversy the last two years has Whisenhunt here.  The team did not prepare for the retirement of Kurt Warner.  After Matt Leinart not working out, the team chose to go with Derek Anderson and Max Hall.  Since they did not properly evaluate Leinart, the team has been set back a year or two.

Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos – Since his upset win against the New England Patriots last season, it has been downhill for McDaniels and the Broncos.  At some point, Tim Tebow will have to be the starting quarterback.  McDaniels’ future as a coach will hinge on success by Tim Tebow.

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans – At some point, the line of the Texans will be contenders next year will have to happen.  The team has been on the edge of greatness, but never seem to be able to accomplish it.  Kubiak has to get this team to the playoffs, otherwise they will look for a coach that will take them to that next step.