Hello, all! Welcome back to your regularly scheduled program of Behind Enemy Lines. If this is your first time here, we’re glad to have you here.
For each game, I interview someone who covers Michigan’s opponent and they give us insight into how they match up with the Wolverines, keys to victory, players to look out for and other fun stops along the way. This week was no different, as I interviewed Chris Stanley of Garnet & Black Attack — the Gamecocks’ SB Nation site.
Without any more delay, let’s jump in!
Josh LaFond: With Georgia coming on as of late, and Florida finding its man, can the Gamecocks position themselves right in the thick of the SEC East, or do you see them falling into the mix with the rest of the division?
Chris Stanley: Let me preface this Q&A by saying I am more pessimistic than your average Gamecock fan, but it comes with good reason. As of right now I don't see South Carolina ascending to the level Georgia is anytime soon, especially after what Kirby Smart just pulled off on early signing day.
South Carolina can easily be in the same boat with the Tennessee's and Missouri's in the division, but it would take a lot of talent coupled with a revamp of the offense in order for South Carolina to be on top of the conference.
Josh: I’d like to piggyback off of my first question with this next one.
Under (relatively new) head man Will Muschamp, South Carolina has shown promise at times but hasn’t found there ground yet, which leads me into this question: Where do you see the program at in the next three years?
Chris: I'd expect it to look a lot like what it did under Spurrier pre-2010. The defense will have plenty of talent and will carry the team while the offense will be frustrating despite having clear skill talent. Will Muschamp has yet to prove he can assemble a football team that looks anything different than that. The Gamecocks should always be in bowl games, but will not contend for SEC title games.
Josh: Obviously, the last time these teams faced off, Jadeveon Clowney stole the show. Who will have to shine like he did then for the Gamecocks to win on Monday?
Chris: Defensively it's got to be on Skai Moore. Moore is a fifth-year senior who's led the team in tackles all four years he's been in uniform. He's disruptive as a run stopper and has a knack for creating turnovers in the passing game (one more interception would give him the school record for career picks — 15). He'll be the one who sets the tone against Michigan's run game early on New Year's Day.
Josh: What’s your favorite Gamecock tradition, or something in general that could give Wolverine fans something they don’t know?
Chris: The 2012 South Carolina team Michigan lost to in that Outback Bowl might be the best team to ever dawn Garnet and Black. Yes, scoff all you want Michigan man — not all of us can hold the proud tradition of Wolverine football. But in terms of what South Carolina's had in football 2012 is about as good as it gets. From eviscerating No. 5 Georgia on College Gameday to beating a top 10 Clemson team for the fourth year in a row to that legendary New Year's bowl game — that team will long live in the lore of Gamecock football. Did I mention that roster had 15 NFL players on it?
Josh: Who are three guys that Michigan needs to game plan around in order to capture a W?
Chris: Offensively you have to take away wide receiver Bryan Edwards. Edwards is big bodied target (6'3'', 215 lbs) who's muscled his way to 59 catches and four touchdowns. He's also SC's most targeted receiver, having 35 more balls thrown his way than the next guy I'll talk about — Hayden Hurst. Hurst is as complete a tight end you'll find in college football. He's an excellent blocker (watch his film against NC State's Bradley Chubb), a proficient pass catcher (41 catches on 60 targets) and will even see action on jet sweeps as a runner.
Those are your biggest threats on offense. Defensively, outside of Moore, the name to watch is DJ Wonnum. Wonnum enjoyed a breakout sophomore season at defensive end by registering 13 TFL, six sacks and five pass break ups.
Josh: Give us a score and game prediction.
Chris: The way I see this game is a matchup of two teams with bad offenses and good defenses. But what really separates the two sides is the aptitude of the defenses: South Carolina's defense is merely good, Michigan's is elite. More so, Michigan has at least proven they can run the ball well at times — South Carolina has yet to prove they can do anything on offense consistently well. This will be an aesthetically unappealing game and Michigan will win by a 20-13 count.
Josh: Let’s wrap it up with a non Outback Bowl question:
Who do you think wins between Oklahoma/Georgia and Clemson/Alabama? And who is crowned the national champ?
Chris: Oklahoma's defense simply isn't good enough to be in the playoff. As good as Baker Mayfield and that offense has been, Jake Fromm has proven he can hang with anyone in the country this season. Georgia wins. Between Clemson and Alabama, I trust Jalen Hurts and his weapons just a little more in a game of his magnitude than I do Kelly Bryant and his arsenal — which is no knock on Bryant or his skill players. Alabama wins. Between the two SEC teams, I give Alabama a slight edge because of their defense — crowning them the national champions once again.
I want to extend my thanks to Chris, and all the guys over at Garnet and Black for making this happen. It was a pleasure to interview Chris and to answer their questions, as well. For updates on the Gamecocks heading into the game on Monday and for their take on Michigan’s chances, head on over to GarnetAndBlack.com. See you all next season for more interviews with Behind Enemy Lines.