Byron Jerideau was raised in the tiny Ace Basin town of Green Pond and was a South Carolina football fan when the Gamecocks regularly finished low in the SEC East standings. But long before growing into a 6-1, 316-pound senior defensive tackle considered the Gamecocks' strongest player — 500 pounds on the bench press, 670 on the squat — Jerideau thought South Carolina was capable of national championship contention.
“I did,” the Colleton County High School graduate said this week. “That's been every player and every team's goal, and coming in here I knew that was the goal I wanted to get done.”
The No. 6 Gamecocks over the next three Saturdays play host to No. 5 Georgia and travel to No. 4 LSU and No. 10 Florida. It's a schedule stretch testing whether Jerideau and his teammates are strong enough to lift a national championship trophy.
Pigskin Picks offers similar pressure. I differ with Warren Peper on four — count 'em, four — games this week.
Starting with The Big One:
Georgia at USC
Georgia has the revenge edge, but the Gamecocks aren't going to lose at home this season. It's possible to have a high-scoring game with decent defense on both sides.
Sapakoff pick: USC, 31-24
Peper pick: Georgia, 37-31
Ga. Tech at Clemson
Tigers showed signs of a pass rush in Beantown. Now let's see if they can dodge cut blocks and stop the run.
Sapakoff pick: Clemson, 42-17
Peper pick: Clemson, 31-21
The Citadel at Samford
The Citadel is still good enough to remain in the Southern Conference mix for weeks but might take a step back before moving ahead.
Sapakoff pick: Samford, 21-17
Peper pick: Samford, 28-17
CSU at Stony Brook
Charleston Southern's toughest FCS game. Stony Brook is 4-1 with a win over Army and a hard-fought, 28-17 loss at Syracuse.
Sapakoff pick: Stony Brook, 31-10
Peper pick: Stony Brook, 30-20
South Carolina State vs. N.C. Central
Bulldogs get a nice Lucas Oil Stadium showcase at the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
Sapakoff pick: S.C. State, 21-14
Peper pick: N.C. Central, 35-32
LSU at Florida
The other huge SEC game involving top 10 teams this week. South Carolina plays at LSU next week, at Florida the next.
Sapakoff pick: LSU, 13-12
Peper pick: Florida, 24-17
Florida State at N.C. State
EJ Manuel and the offense are fine. Time for the Seminoles to craft their BCS championship game case with improved defense.
Sapakoff pick: FSU, 34-14
Peper pick: FSU, 40-20
Vanderbilt at Missouri
Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin and Co. had two weeks to prepare but this is where the Tigers get their first Southeastern Conference win.
Sapakoff pick: Missouri, 27-24
Peper pick: Missouri, 24-20
Virginia Tech at North Carolina
Odd ACC: Tar Heels favored over Hokies, Duke favored over Virginia and it's not basketball season.
Sapakoff pick: North Carolina, 24-23
Peper pick: Virginia Tech, 19-16
Miami at Notre Dame
Strange Stat of the Week: Notre Dame is the only FBS team that has not trailed in a game this season.
Sapakoff pick: Notre Dame, 21-17
Peper pick: Notre Dame, 24-21
Last week: Sapakoff 7-3, Peper 6-4
Season: Sapakoff 38-12, Peper 34-16