SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Pigskin Picks: Gamecocks learn from top 10 losses
South Carolina gets a break against rebuilding (or collapsing) Tennessee today after three games in a row against teams ranked in The Associated Press top 10. The Gamecocks had played three top-10 teams in a row only once before, at the end of the 1987 season — a 20-7 home victory over No. 8 Clemson; a 20-16 loss at No. 2 Miami; and a 30-13 Gator Bowl loss to No. 7 LSU.
Todd Ellis recalls watching LSU film before the Gator Bowl.
“They were so good,” said Ellis, the South Carolina quarterback in 1987 and now the radio voice of the Gamecocks. “We couldn’t believe they weren’t undefeated.”
Almost. LSU finished 10-1-1 and No. 5.
Unlike 1987, the current Gamecocks have a chance to make use of their top-10 gauntlet, ideally taking knowledge from losses at LSU and Florida into the stretch drive.
Asked for a preference — three rugged games in the middle of the season or at the end — Ellis said there is a “middle ground.”
“On the one hand, you might not be playing your best football earlier in the season and you would rather have those games at the end,” he said. “On the other hand, you might be too beat up.”
No bye weeks for Warren Peper, no hot tub for me.
Just more Pigskin Picks:
Tennessee at USC
Connor Shaw is a better quarterback than the imposter wearing No. 14 in Baton Rouge and Gainesville.
Sapakoff pick: USC, 31-14
Peper pick: USC, 30-16
The Citadel at Wofford
Bulldogs must contain running back Eric Breitenstein, the pride of Valle Crucis, N.C., and probably the most valuable college football player in the Palmetto State.
Sapakoff pick: Wofford, 28-21
Peper pick: Wofford, 27-10
Edward Waters at CSU
Charleston Southern (3-4) will notch its third straight victory; Edward Waters is an NAIA Division II school in Jacksonville, Fla.
Sapakoff pick: CSU, 42-10
Peper pick: CSU, 34-14
Howard at S.C. State
The Bulldogs are coming off their best game, an overtime win at Florida A&M that head coach Buddy Pough dubbed “really special.”
Sapakoff pick: S.C. State, 21-16
Peper pick: S.C. State, 30-17
Florida vs. Georgia
Did you know these programs grapple for the Okefenokee Oar? Florida’s defense, talented enough to drop defensive linemen deep into pass coverage against South Carolina, is the difference.
Sapakoff pick: Florida, 19-17
Peper pick: Florida, 27-24
Mississippi State at Alabama
Tyler Russell and the Bulldogs might win 10 or 11 games. This won’t be one of them.
Sapakoff pick: Alabama, 24-10
Peper pick: Alabama, 21-12
Mississippi at Arkansas
Razorbacks were once 1-4 but a win here and next week against Tulsa means a four-game win streak coming to Columbia on Nov. 10.
Sapakoff pick: Arkansas, 31-24
Peper pick: Arkansas, 27-14
BYU at Georgia Tech
A fascinating contrast of BYU defense (Cougars lost to Boise State 7-6 and beat Utah State 6-3) vs. the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option.
Sapakoff pick: BYU, 17-14
Peper pick: Georgia Tech, 24-17
N.C. State at North Carolina
The Tar Heels are 4-0 at home and ticked off about last week’s 33-30 loss at Coastal Division frontrunner Duke.
Sapakoff pick: N.C. State, 24-20
Peper pick: UNC, 27-20
Notre Dame at Oklahoma
Cool game. The Fighting Irish came to Norman in 1957 as 18-point underdogs and ended Bud Wilkinson’s 47-game win streak with a shocking 7-0 victory.
Sapakoff pick: Oklahoma, 20-17
Peper pick: Oklahoma, 30-20
Last week: Sapakoff 8-2, Peper 6-4
Season: Sapakoff 60-20, Peper 55-25
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff