For South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp, there are a handful of stats that are critical to success, but others don’t mean anything.
Let’s start with the frivolous ones, because this applies to South Carolina, especially after the Week 1 win over North Carolina State.
The Gamecocks lost to the Wolfpack in time of possession, 36:41 to 23:19. In the fourth quarter, they got crushed, 10:18 to 4:42.
“Time of possession has no regard in winning games, at the end of the day,” Muschamp said. “It can be critical at times when you’re playing too many snaps, but it’s not a stat that championship teams can look back and say it was because of time of possession.
“The other misled stat is penalties. Some of the most penalized teams in the country win championships. I’m not saying they’re OK, I’m just saying that certain stats get blown up in the public’s eye that aren’t that important.”
South Carolina had fewer there: 6 penalties for 45 yards to 8 penalties for 65 yards.
The stats that do matter to Muschamp aren’t exactly fantasy-football-friendly. Well, one is, to a degree.
- Turnover margin: “We talk to our football team about the ball. They named the game after it, football. Turnover margin is critical.”
- Explosive plays “are critical,” he added: “You take that combination every year in the NFL and those are the teams in the playoffs. Teams that make explosive plays and not giving up explosive plays.”
- So is field position: “You look at the other night and we end up winning it by 7 1/2 yards. If we don’t make a poor decision on returning a punt, we win it by [a lot more].”
- Winning the fourth quarter is also important. Muschamp believes South Carolina will play seven games this season where it’s a one-score game in the fourth quarter. “We’re going to have to win in the fourth quarter.”
- Last, but certainly not least is the red zone: “Last week came down in the red zone. We needed to make a stop in the red zone to win. We made a stop in the red zone to force a field goal and we capitalized on two opportunities in the red zone offensively to score 14 points.
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The two most important, he added, are turnover margin and explosive plays. South Carolina split that decision with N.C. State.
- South Carolina won the turnover margin, 2-1.
- Defensively, the Gamecocks allowed 2 rushing plays for 10 yards or longer and 4 passing plays for 20 yards or longer. The Wolfpack gave up 1 rushing and 3 passing.
How did those numbers pan out last season, in South Carolina’s 31-21 win over Missouri?
- South Carolina won the turnover margin, 3-0.
- Defensively, the Gamecocks allowed 7 rushing plays for 10 yards or longer and 5 passing plays for 20 yards or longer. The Tigers gave up 5 passing and 6 rushing.
The explosive plays came in chunks. Missouri had two separate drives with three of those types of plays and two others with two. South Carolina had two drives with multiple explosive plays, one had four of the plays and the other had three.
If the Gamecocks can hold serve in Columbia, Mo., they’ll return with a 2-0 record.