AN OPPOSING VIEW
We went all the way to New Zealand to find today’s guest for the Opposing View blog. OK, that’s not entirely true. But Mike Wilson IS a New Zealand native. He grew up in Michigan and covered Michigan State for the past three years, which obviously makes him the ideal person to ask about Georgia’s opponent this week, South Carolina.
All kidding aside, Wilson actually covers the Gamecocks for SEC Country, and does a bang-up job of it. It’s his first year on the South Carolina beat, which means he missed the whole Steve Spurrier thing and jumped straight in with Will Muschamp. So there’s nothing there to blur his vision.
Meanwhile, Mike tells me he likes craft beer, the TV show “Friday Night Lights” and reading with a glass of bourbon, so clearly this is a guy we can all trust.
I emailed Mike some questions about South Carolina this week. Below are his answers:
1. What has it been like working with Will Muschamp? Fans like him?
Wilson: “Muschamp is an interesting cat. He’s got a spark to him, which I appreciate. He’s also willing to really dig down and talk football in his press conferences to a different level than I have experienced.
“So far, fans have a mixed view on him, but they shouldn’t. Most of the gripes come from a poor offense, but that should have been expected by all this season. I think most have been able to look and say that this year is a wash to some extent and it’s more about what happens in the future when the cupboard isn’t so bare.”
2. What’s your view of the quarterback competition and how do you expect it to shake out this week?
Wilson: “Oh boy, oh boy. I expect both will play and Muschamp has said as much. I’m not even sure I would call it a “competition” exactly as much as a battle to see gets the first snap. I do believe Perry Orth needs to be more of a factor at quarterback. The offense was too stagnant for most of the past two games with Brandon McIlwain. Reality is, South Carolina has a better chance to move the ball in large chunks with Orth right now.
“The wild card at quarterback is, of course, the weather. Orth’s strength is throwing the ball downfield. McIlwain has more running ability. If the game is played in bad weather conditions, McIlwain might be the best choice strictly from a logical standpoint.”
3. What does the return of wide receivers Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel mean to the offense? And what has been the chief problem on that side of the ball?
Wilson: “For cliche’s sake, it means everything, if they do indeed play Saturday. South Carolina has really had only one game with its full host of wide receivers and lacked deep threats without Edwards (one game) and Samuel (three games). It already had/has enough question marks offensively and that was exacerbated by injuries.
“The problems have varied from the offensive line to the quarterbacks to the health situation. But, overall, it comes down to youth. The Gamecocks have next to no experience on offense. It’s a young group all learning together and that has led to severe growing pains.”
4. What makes the Gamecocks so good on defense?
Wilson: “I think it’s two-fold. The Gamecocks benefited from playing mostly blah offenses in the first month of the season (spare East Carolina from that group). The Texas A&M game was the first real test and I left impressed with how USC handled a pretty darn good offense.
“What has made them surprisingly better than expected stems from pretty good linebackers as much as anything, but the coaching deserves the most credit of all. The personnel is not wildly different from the last year’s unit, which was one of the SEC’s worst. But they play a more aggressive style now and the players seem to have taken to it well.”
5. What’s the latest on the weather and Hurricane Matthew?
Wilson: “The quick facts: South Carolina canceled Wednesday classes, Governor Nikki Haley does not expect the game to be played and USC is keeping an eye on things. Oh, and I bought a lot of water today with some granola bars, bread and PB&J … just in case and because I am not used to such weather possibilities.
“There is nothing determined as of Wednesday morning. But there’s no doubt it could have an effect not only on when the game is played, but where. Stay tuned!”
WILSON’S PREDICTION: “The Gamecocks and Bulldogs play this game on Dec. 3 since neither team is destined for the SEC Championship Game — OK, that might be too wild. … The game is played in Athens (gasp) and South Carolina plays angry after losing a home game for the second straight season. Nick Chubb runs wild, but South Carolina figures out a few things on offense to keep it close. But Dogs pull it out.”