Game day prep: Five storylines to watch for Saturday

Okay Gamecock fans take a deep breath. The Georgia game is now completely behind you and now South Carolina is facing a much less formidable test than the No. 7 team in the country on its home field.

The Gamecocks get a struggling UCF team that just dropped games to Florida International and Furman.

While the Gamecocks haven’t dropped any games to FCS teams, they aren’t without their share of struggles.

The issues at quarterback have been prominent and the lack of a stout defense has left many fans wondering when the new, simplified and better defense that was promised is going to show up.

But, with UCF coming in it gives the Gamecocks ample opportunity to get on track. The “Big Mo” of momentum and confidence is a big factor in college football and if the Gamecocks win, and win big, it could be one that helps get the team on track.

And going into this game, there are a lot of questions or headlines to pay attention to when the Gamecocks kickoff Saturday at noon from Williams-Brice.

1. Will Lorenzo Nunez step up and take over the No. 1 spot?

Nunez was named the starter for this week, becoming the fourth starting quarterback over the past five games and the third different signal caller this season.  He’ll be the first true freshman to start at South Carolina under Spurrier and the first to start at South Carolina since Mikal Goodman in 1999. And if he can play well, the starter role will be his for the taking. We’ve seen flashes this season of his lightning-quick speed (he has 12 carries for 116 yards), but not a lot of his ability to throw the ball (he went 4-for-5 for 18 yards against Georgia). If he can throw the ball well and earn a comfortable win, there may be less talk about the Orthquake and more about Hurricane Nunez.

2. How will the defense respond after it got thrashed?

Nothing was pretty for the defense last game when it surrendered almost 600 yards of offense and made a quarterback who went 4 of 5 at Virginia look like the second coming of Peyton Manning. Changes are on the horizon for Jon Hoke and Lorenzo Wards’ defense, with T.J. Holloman starting at middle linebacker and Skai Moore moving to Will. It also helps the struggling defense the Knights’ starting quarterback and wide receiver are out with injuries and their staring running back was just dismissed from the team. So, the Gamecocks are facing a depleted offense and could be in for a big defensive day.

3.    Can Shon Carson carry the load at running back?

Carson is the starting back this week, making him one of the many players to take snaps with the offense this season. Brandon Wilds went down with a bruised rib against Georgia and is questionable for Saturday. Carson gets the start for the second time in his career in what looks to be a run-heavy game (the game plan and the forecasted rainy weather will have something to do with that). And since David Williams hasn’t been the back coaches thought he’d be, the load may be placed squarely on the quick feet of Carson. It’ll be intriguing to see if he takes advantage of the opportunity or puts up pedestrian numbers.

4. Zack Bailey’s first start at center

Bailey came into fall camp anything but a center. He played tackle in high school and was slated as the back up at the beginning of the season, expected to play some as a backup. But two injuries to the team’s starting centers moved Bailey to the starting spot. Being a center is arguably the hardest position to play on offense, since whoever is playing has to command the offensive line and read blitzes and call protection schemes to keep the quarterback upright. If Bailey can call a great game, then it could give way for a big game for Carson and Nunez. Time to suit up and play, big guy.

5. Will the fans make it out?

Notorious for being some of the most loyal fans in the country, I mean they stuck it out for 0-11 and 1-10 seasons about 15 years ago, it will be interesting to see how many fans come out for the noon kickoff game. The time of kick and the weather (40 percent chance of rain at kickoff) could play a big role in fans not coming out. As for students, they stuck through the Kentucky game but after back-to-back losses, the section may seem sparser than normal.

The game kicks off at noon on ESPNU and the Gamecocks will look to rebound from their poor 1-2 (0-2 SEC) start. Be on the lookout for these five things because they could spell success for the team.

My prediction: South Carolina 35, UCF 10