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A Treatise on Timidity

In the course of having a comment conversation with Kyle King at Dawgsports about his pick of South Carolina over Ole Miss, I made a little observation:

[P]icking South Carolina is actually an attempt to make the "safe" pick.

And the Mayor is not alone.  Garnet and Black Attack says 30-28.  The Daily Gamecock says some psycho-babble bull about "New Carolina."  Some douche at Bleacher Report says douche-like things.  Tony Barnhart says "trap game."  

Okay, so the folks with the money on the line say, "Ole Miss.  Barely," but the buyers remorse that writers - both amateur and professional - are having with Ole Miss leads me to believe that more and more prognostications will lean toward the home team.  And everyone picking South Carolina will pick them to win by 2, 3, 4, or 5.  Everybody wanna pick Carolina, nobody wanna pick 'em by too much.

And why not?  It's the "safe" pick.  And by "safe," I don't mean "accurate," I just mean comparing the potential for loss (in this case, simply the embarrassment of everyone remembering your bonehead call), South Carolina by a few is the least risky choice because it is the least memorable.  In an SEC game where the "known unknown" is going on the road against a decent team on an odd day, you have two options: 

  • Pick Ole Miss to win, and they might.  Or they might not.  If you picked them to win, and they don't, then you're just one of the sheep, blindly following the polls.  Super credibility fail.
  • Pick South Carolina to win.  If they do, you've just accurately projected an upset over a Top 5 team.  Congratulations.  Hang that over the heads of your blog-buddies for a few weeks.  But, if they don't, you've got your trusty old excuse, "Well, we obviously just didn't know enough about Ole Miss."

Generally, picking an unranked team - especially one that has already laid one egg on the season - over a Top 5 team (even when the higher-ranked team is on the road) would leave you out an island.  You would be the exception to the rule.  The outlier.  Am I the only one that thinks that a little, well, odd?  I understand perfectly why it is happening.  But I thought it worth noting this unusual occasion where picking against the Top 5 team is not the bold choice, but, in fact, is rather sheepish.

So, here's my game prediction:

The Ole Miss offense comes out swinging.  Crazy, high-flying, CFL, chips on their shoulders and brass in their ball-sacks, swinging that gives Coach Spurrier the here-to-fore unknown evolutionary development called "the fear-ection."  Ole Miss leads by double digits early.  South Carolina's offense is fly-or-die in the first half; 20 yard gains mixing socially with 4th and 12's.  They score, but the Rebels maintain a 10-point or greater advantage going into the half.  What's more?  They score first in the second half.  Chris Fowler barely gets "...may be for real," out of his mouth before the Gamecocks score on a big play.  Could be a long Jarvis Giles run made possible by sloppy tackling; could be that vertical connection Garcia has been missing all night.  However it happens, momentum shifts.

Now, usually, I wouldn't give a buffalo nickel for momentum, but when you only have two cornerbacks (and less and twelve feet between them), a big adrenaline bust can mean something.  Then, our offense makes that mistake that you know is coming, putting our defense back on the field.  10 yard passes stacked on top of each other.  Carolina gets a touchdown and, for the first time since the first quarter, it's a one-score game.  A long drive by the Rebels yields just a field goal, and the defense takes the field.

A few Garcia-led first downs strike varying degrees of fear in Rebel hearts.  The Gamecocks are in Ole Miss territory.  It looks like a repeat of the previous drive, until Garcia, knowing that his team needs a touchdown, goes for the home run.  But there's not enough time.  The pressure gets to him, forces a turnover, and the Rebels take over.  One more long drive ends in a score, but more importantly milks time off the clock.  We're very happy we have Brandon Bolden right now.  South Carolina gets the ball back, down by 10 - 17 points with two or three minutes left in the game.  The game is, effectively, over, but ends, in fact, on a late interception or turnover on downs.

Ole Miss wins 38 - 28.