COLUMBIA, S.C. - Nothing could be finer than to play Coastal Carolina, except perhaps for an off week.
With 11th-ranked South Carolina's end of season matchup with rival seventh-ranked Clemson looming on Nov. 30, it's the perfect time for the Gamecocks to take on an FCS opponent.
Of course, no one at South Carolina is going to say that, certainly not head coach Steve Spurrier or any of the players, who will be well-rehearsed in the art of praising all opponents great and small.
Clemson faces the exact same scenario with The Citadel coming to Death Valley on Saturday, and it's safe to say that Dabo Swinney will focus more on his appreciation for the military than his appreciation of a soft opponent just before the biggest game of the year.
For South Carolina, there are certain things the Gamecocks need from their game with the Chanticleers on Saturday.
Most importantly, South Carolina needs to avoid injuries. The Gamecocks have been unusually lucky in that department this year and that luck needs to continue.
Ideally, South Carolina needs a big lead that will allow the Gamecocks to rest their starters, particularly quarterback Connor Shaw who has been playing with a knee sprain since the Tennessee game.
Tailback Mike Davis, who insists he's fine physically, may be overstating his case just a tad. He could use a rest. Ditto for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and a host of others.
Meanwhile, there are some players who could use more playing time. Tailback Brandon Wilds comes to mind. He's been out with a dislocated elbow, was cleared to play, then didn't last week because he tweaked a hamstring.
While the starters are in the game, they need to take care of business.
Shaw was off a bit in the passing game last week. He needs to regain the sharpness that has seen him complete 61.3 percent of his passes this season with 19 touchdowns and one interception.
Defensively, the Gamecocks need to shut down big plays. Although South Carolina's defense remains one of the best in the Southeastern Conference, it seems to get gashed for two or three big plays a game.
The Gamecocks don't need to be doing that against Clemson.
South Carolina needs to build on what was a solid effort on special teams in last week's victory over Florida.
The Gamecocks avoided the bonehead mistakes that have plagued them all season on special teams with perhaps their most solid game of the season.
And even though Elliott Fry was four of five on field goals, it would be a lot better if he were kicking extra points, which goes back to finishing drives on offense.
There's no reason South Carolina can't accomplish these objectives against Coastal Carolina. If not, maybe the Gamecocks need to join the Big South.
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