Wednesday, August 29, 2012

SEC College Football Opener: South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt Predictions

While hosting a client happy hour in St. Louis last night, I turned to my colleague and said, “dude, we’re going to be sooo hungover at 7am tomorrow.”  Then, something amazing happened.  Just as Babe Ruth famously called his shot in October of 1932, my hangover prediction became a reality.  It was at that point that I realized two things: 1) I’m better than Babe Ruth and 2.) I have an amazing gift and would be doing the world a major disservice if I didn’t use my powers for the greater good of man.  I’m talking, of course, about predicting college football games.

Therefore, I’ll be using BR as a platform to unveil various prophecies throughout the year, starting with the NCAA college football season opener.  Tomorrow, the South Carolina Gamecocks will hop, skip, and jump from Columbia to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in the first SEC matchup of the year.  So, gather around my brothers and sisters.  Here’s how it’s all going to go down…

10:30am, Thursday, August 30th 2012

American Airlines flight 4081 from Chicago to Nashville lands, delivering a rowdy band of Midwestern Gamecocks to a day/evening of football spectating and honky-tonking through the streets of Nash-Vegas.  Shortly after, a protest forms out of a disgruntled pair of AA flight attendants, several peeved 4081 passengers, and a handful of O’Hare TSA agents.  Their efforts ultimately result in an alteration of some national transportation rules/regulations pertaining to alcohol consumption, making “loud rooster crows” during flight, and attempting to board a 757 carrying a gigantic “Gamecocks are #1” foam finger.

7:00pm, Thursday, August 30th 2012  

Just before kickoff, ESPN announcers acknowledge that America’s football community has unanimously agreed that Vanderbilt wins title of ‘best SEC tailgating’ after a Twitter-documented (@PatZackDavis) crawl through the city’s honky-tonks and tailgates, led by yours truly, goes viral. 

8:10pm, Thursday, August 30th 2012

After a few missed plays by South Carolina’s youthful secondary, Connor Shaw takes the final snap of the first half with the Commodores up by 10 points.  Shaw hands the ball off to Marcus Lattimore who takes it to the house, bringing the Gamecocks within a field goal going into the half.  Jogging towards the locker rooms, Steve Spurrier has the following to say:  “Well, we got play a heck of a lot better ball in the second half, that’s for sure.  Our offense needs to keep the ball a lil’ bit longer and let our defensive guys rest a bit.  But anyway, there’s a lot of ball left to play.  Yep.”

10:00pm, Thursday, August 30th 2012

Steve Spurrier, Connor Shaw, and Jadeveon Clowney walk into the press room after a 31-17 win over Vanderbilt.  The following post-game interview transpires:

Spurrier:  Good win for the Gamecocks.  Obviously our defense came out in the second half and did a heck of job out there.  Had some good runs, Marcus and Conner both had some good runs… Kenny Miles!  Kenny came in and ran some good plays for us too. We were able to give the defense a little more time to get settled out there and ended up making some big plays for us.  But anyway, we got a lot we gotta work on for next week against East Carolina.

Journalist A:  Jadeveon, on that third sack it looked like you were whispering something in Jordan Rogers ear.  What were you saying.

Clowney:  I told him to tell his brother I’d see him in a couple years and that HE was next.

Journalist B:  This next question is for Connor Shaw.  Connor, why do you think….

Spurrier:  Ron Morris, how in the heck did you get in here?!  You go on an GET!  Y’hear me?  GET!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

GAMECOCK NEWS: South Carolina Football; State Championship? Don’t you mean NATIONAL Championship?

After moving to Chicago a few years ago, I quickly realized that South Carolina was not the center of the college football universe.  These Big 10 (or 12 or whatever that conference is now) fans here in the Midwest just aren’t that open to watching or discussing good ol’ Gamecock football.  It’s a shame too, because that’s some damn good football.  But, what if we South Carolinians just forced the nation to participate in the action?

I know, you’re thinking ‘well, how can we do that, Patrick?’

Thanks.  I’m glad you asked.  If this were any other year, the only line of attack for nationwide involvement would be just that; a line of attack (i.e. country-wide propaganda followed by mass-kidnappings).  This year, however, we can do it another, safer way.  We can force our awe-inspiring rooster crows and dim-witted Tiger chants upon this nation in true Outbreak fashion (the one with the monkeys).  I’m talking about the South Carolina Gamecocks meeting the Clemson Tigers in the Superdome on January 9th, 2012.
If you’re still reading, you must be from SC.  Or, you are just a pretty cool dude/gal.  

So, before I continue, let me just say that YES it’s painfully obvious to me how bizarre this scenario must sound to most fans out there.  And YES, I’ve already had my nightcap of cheap scotch as I write this.  That doesn’t mean I’m not delivering one, big, giant truth bomb that no non-SC native’s ears are ready to hear.  South Carolina can still improve their weaknesses and have a shot at winning the SEC title (which, almost by default, puts us in the Superdome on the 9th).  And, as much as it pains me to admit, Clemson actually does have a shot at being the curiously color-schemed opponent we face in that championship.  Hear me out…

The case for the Gamecocks:  First of all, what happened to all the hype about USC going all the way?  Am I the only Carolina fan spreading the propaganda?  Well, after watching our first four wins, I don’t blame the rest of you for hopping off the train.  That is, the BCS Championship hype train (or Cockaboose).  Here are a couple questions to ask yourselves.  Can Marcus Lattimore continue carrying the ball 20-25 times per game?  Can Stephen Garcia snap out of his funk and throw at least half as many TDs as he does INTs?  If those two answers are yes and our defensive front keeps taking teams to Murder Town (population: 0), then we’re all set to make this the year of the Gamecock.

The case for the Tigers:  Is Clemson an over-rated team?  Of course.  Does Dabo Swinney have what it takes to coach this team to a national title?  I don’t think so.  Could they still do it?  The actual title?  Not a snowball’s chance in hell.  The title game?  Yup, absolutely.  Look, I’m not going to sit here and praise CU, because I think their four Ws have been just as sloppy as ours.  But, this team has beaten four 2010 champions back-to-back in Troy (Sun Belt Champs), Wofford (Southern Champs), Auburn (SEC and Nat’l Champs), and Florida State (ACC Atlantic and Chick-fil-A Bowl Champs).  If they can squeeeeeeeeze by Virginia Tech (ACC Champs) on the road this weekend, then that will make if five back-to-back and that will also mean that some of Clemson’s toughest games will be behind them.  That is, until they stroll into good ol’ Billy Brice on November 26th.
The case for a rematch:  Ok, so we’ve gotten this far.  If you’re by any chance still with me, then this rematch piece should be an easy sell.  Think about it.   Both South Carolina and Clemson are going to be in the top ten after crucial wins this weekend.  Clemson will need to remain undefeated to stay in the top ten by November 26th.  But, pending other teams’ losses, this actually would put them in the top five.  South Carolina could slip to Arkansas (assuming the Razorbacks beat A&M and get back into the top ten, themselves, by then) and still sneak back into the top ten after a big win against Florida at home two weeks prior.  There is no doubt in my mind what happens when these two teams meet in Columbia.  It’s a three-peat, baby!   Clemson will take their anger out on one of the Tech teams (Georgia or Virginia) in the ACC Championship, while Carolina will use the momentum to start a fire in Atlanta against either Alabama or LSU for the SEC Championship.  It’ll probably be the latter team representing the West, and we all know what happened last year.

So, that’s it.  Any questions? 

Gamecock fans, remember where you heard it first (and, see you at the Auburn game this weekend!).  Non-SC fans, please feel free to use the comments section as your complaint box and I’ll try my best to entertain your protests with one-liner sarcasm.  Clemson fans, I’ll CU in New Orleans!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

GAMECOCK NEWS: 5 Games This Saturday That Can Keep USC Rollin' to a National Title

An economist’s application of game theory would suggest that your success is not solely determined by your next successful move. Rather, it’s the result of the strategy and counter-moves of not only your direct competition but also everyone and everything within your market/ecosystem.

Ummm—Why the hell are we talking about economics?

Trust me, I’d rather be doing the normal weekend football routine (bombing Jim Beam shots, guzzling cheap beer, and misbehaving at my tailgate) than thinking about the application of game theory to college football. Unfortunately, because of the way NCAA Football and the BCS system work, we all have to do both routines this Saturday.

You see, a simple win by the Gamecocks is not enough to move the needle the way we, Gamecock Nation, want it to. Remember what happened that one time (as in last weekend) that USC played against a tough, triple-option Navy team? We won.

Remember the Gamecock’s AP ranking before the game and then after the game? We were ranked No. 10 and then, as sure as hell is hot and Clemson fans are obnoxious, we were all of a sudden ranked 12th. Such is life. But, when life gives you lemons, you take those lemons and build a world-dominating citrus rocket. (Actual weapon...citrus rocket LAUNCHER sold separately)

So, without further ado, here are the five games and necessary outcomes this Saturday that will take the Gamecocks from over-ranked and falling to under-ranked and rising.

Game 1: No. 14 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide

Assuming this Saturday produces a win for the Gamecocks, this 3:30 pm Arkansas game will be the most important game to watch.
We need the Razorbacks to whip up some pig sooie and bust out an unexpected W.

ESPN gave Tyler Wilson a rating of ‘Questionable’ with his 23-of-36 passes for 303 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception this year.
Those aren’t quite Ryan Mallett numbers. And, with the spread in double-digits and the game being played in Bryant-Denny stadium, I’m not quite optimistic.

But, this is college football. Anything can happen, and since “God is smiling on the Gamecocks” per Steve Spurrier, that anything might just be the Crimson Tide getting rolled for an upset at home.

Why South Carolina Needs Arkansas to Win: At the beginning of the year, I predicted that the Gamecocks would win every game except the away game at Arkansas. Regardless of whether or not that happens, we want the Razorbacks to be as highly ranked as possible when we play them.

With back-to-back wins against two top-five teams (see ‘Game 4’ Section), the Razorbacks will be in the top five right about the time that Cockabus rolls into Fayetteville.

A win in that scenario would be massive and a loss would mean little (and would actually mean nothing if we avenged the loss in Atlanta).

Game 2: No. 11 Florida State Seminoles vs. No. 21 Clemson "Kittens"

Ok, so I hate Clemson just as much as the next guy.

I hate their fans, culture, academics, geographic location, athletics, and anything else Clemson that I forgot to mention. Oh yeah, their colors. Their colors are stupid, too.

However, this weekend I’ll be pulling hard for my in-state rivals to beat the Seminoles.
I want Florida State to suffer as revenge for them beating us last year, but that has little to do with why I’m pulling for Clemson. This Saturday isn’t about what we want. It’s about what we need.

Why South Carolina Needs Clemson to Win: Using the same logic as our need for Arkansas to win, we want Clemson to be highly ranked and on their way to the ACC Championship game when we obliterate them (that’ll be three years in a row now, but who’s counting).

Third time is a charm, especially when it boosts your team into the top five, and that’s exactly what our three-peat against Clemson will do.

Game 3:  No. 15 Florida Gators vs. Kentucky Wildcats

Ok, so this one is a long shot. But, we’ve got to root for the Wildcats here and hope they can pull off a crazy stunt with home-field advantage. I’m not sure when the last time was that they’ve been able to pull off an upset like that, however.

Oh wait, are we talking about Kentucky? Are those the guys that crushed South Carolina (ranked No. 11 at the time) in the second half of the game last year to pull off the upset? Yup, those are the ones. I just hope they can do it again, but this time against the Gators.

Why South Carolina Needs Kentucky to Win: An at-home loss for Kentucky would catapult the Gators, who the polls would favor any day over the Gamecocks, from No. 15 to a ranking higher than Carolina. That’s fine. That’s actually good. We want them ranked high when we play them.

However, the Gators are looking better and better with each game and they’re now favored to win the East. A Florida loss would give South Carolina some much-needed breathing room in our race for the division crown.

Game 4:  No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 8 Texas A&M

Back to the whole want vs. need "thing"—this game is more of a want.

I want Marcus Lattimore to win the Heisman trophy. But, if there’s anyone who can break the non wide-receiver trend in the Heisman race, it’s Justin Blackmon.

The dude has skills, and he does for his team catching the ball what Marcus does for our team running the ball. I think that’s what the Heisman is all about, and so if Oklahoma State can run the table, our No. 21 might leave New York City empty-handed.

Why South Carolina Needs Texas A&M to Win: This is conjecturing some 10 moves ahead, but USC needs Texas A&M to win just because it will boost Arkansas to a top-five ranking (assuming the win this Saturday against Alabama and assuming they actually beat A&M) for when we play them on the road. Simple as that. I know it’s a stretch, but we still need (and want) it to happen.

Game 5:  Vanderbilt Commodores vs. No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks

Let’s end with the most obvious game:ours.

The Commodores are going to strut their high SAT-scoring selves into good ol’ Billy Brice stadium this Saturday at 7:00 pm, and what happens after that will be the only thing that the Gamecocks actually have control over this weekend.

I’m not going to go into how we can beat the Commodores, because my favorite Gamecock writer, Alex Roberts, already schooled us on that earlier this week (here).
I’ll just say that this team scares me, and they’re talented enough for all of Gamecock Nation to be a little nervous.

However, Vanderbilt scares me in a different way than do East Carolina, or Georgia, or Navy, or any other team we play for that matter. Why? Do you know what the only thing worse than getting beat at home is? Getting beat by a bunch of nerds, that’s what.

Now, these particular nerds can beat just about anyone they put their smarty pants little minds to.
But, they’re nerds nonetheless. You think my intro to this slide-show was dorky? Just listen to anyone from their team in their post-loss interview Saturday night. It’s actually pretty impressive.

Why South Carolina needs South Carolina to win: This question is dumb and the answer is obvious, so I’m not going to answer it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

DIGITAL NEWS: Pre-Event Panelist Interview With Cass Baker

If you haven't heard yet, CIMA is hosting a ‘lunch & learn’ this Thursday called “Take Your Online Lead Generation to The Next Level.” it's being held at the Holiday Inn by the Merchandise Mart.  Attendees will be joining an all-star panel of lead-gen experts, so if you’ve yet to register, do it here now!!  

Cass Baker will be among those industry experts, and he was kind enough to kick some knowledge our way as a pre-event teaser.  Cass is the Executive Vice President for Digital Marketing at Leapfrog Online.  The phone interview, below, was conducted today, two days before the big event.

What led your decision to participate in this upcoming panel?   
It touches close to what we do here, at Leapfrog.  We’ve been in business for over twelve years now, and we’ve been in Digital-Direct since the beginning.  The market is in an interesting spot where it doesn’t matter where you come from (whether it’s ‘Hey, I’m a lead-gen provider’ or ‘Hey, I’m a media source’ or ‘Hey, I’m a brand’) everyone is finally, from my perspective, coming to the same place which is, at the end of the day, ‘Hey, a lead is not only a lead, it’s a piece of the pie.’ And, if you’re not focused on what that piece delivers then you’re more than likely part of the challenge and not part of the solution.  So, with things like that as a topic of the panel discussion, and since that’s essentially what [Leapfrog] has been doing for a long time, we wanted to get engaged and in the conversation.  

What do you hope CIMA attendees will gain from the event? 
Well, there are primarily two points here:

1.)    There are some amazing results coming out of Mobile from a Direct perspective and lead-gen being a part of that.

2.)    What you do with a lead is as important as where you found it and how you got it there.

Depending on who’s in the audience and what the conversation is, a lot of companies will say ‘Hey, I don’t know…I sell my leads to so-and-so brand or…I drive leads…I don’t know what happens.’  So, it’s a two-way conversation.  If you’re a brand and you really moving on to quality and not quantity, you really need to close the loop and get it back to your sources.  If you’re a source of leads (selling them or partnering with a brand to deliver them), you really better be focused on what happens to them because otherwise it’s a short-term gain.

As we look at the surfacing of new mediums and platforms in the lead-gen space, what NEW challenges do you foresee arising and what EXISTING issues do you foresee ‘sticking around’ or remaining unsolved? 
The new challenges are, like with any new channel, you don’t necessarily know how this new type of medium is going to affect quality and consumer behavior.  Like with Social..We haven’t seen Social really being able to deliver true quality consumers that are ready to buy.  That doesn’t mean they’re not in the sales cycle for others.  But, from the categories that we work in, these are not consumers that are ready to buy...Some are such promotionally driven shoppers at this point that their lifetime value is not high…those leads are going to be worthless (because of the nature of what’s actually driving them).  

This isn’t necessarily representative of all new channels because, on the other side, we’ve seen Mobile work extremely well.  If you are interested in a product and you have it on a mobile screen, I’d venture to guess that you’re one of the highest qualified consumers and you’re ready to buy now.  But, one of the challenges that Mobile creates is that you need to treat those consumers in a different way than maybe you do on a Desktop or at a Call Center or in other channels.  There is more immediacy in Mobile. There are different needs from that consumer and so you have to treat them as they came to you.  Also, if don’t convert them or don’t deliver their needs that they have in real-time (or close to it), they’re going to move on because they’re not consumers who are necessarily going to wait around. 

Beyond that, I think there are challenges with lead-gen that will always be the same.  You’ve got to figure out where they’re coming from and what the consumer motivations are for the product.  Usually, by understanding where they were first, you can put more weight on the value.  But as you get into new things, don’t assume anything.  Don’t assume that some new channel, like Social, will deliver at the same quality as some other channel.  You’ve got to start over.  It’s a totally different behavior set.  It’s a totally different way of intersecting media and the brand.  And, how they respond on the back end may be completely different, in terms of metrics, than what you thought you knew. 

Looking at the lead-gen space and what it is today, what changes/improvements would you like to see moving into 2012 and beyond (could be specific to what you’re looking for in media partners)?
What I’d really like to see are more media properties being much more responsible in adding more value up front, as an offering of what they do.  Rather than saying ‘we’re going to do all the work here and tell you what we’re willing to do,’ those sources really need to better understand the businesses and brands they’re working with.  Then, they can start adding/overlaying data and providing a more quality selection up front.  So, it’s having a media property like, let’s say a Facebook, says ‘ok, there may be some changes in pricing structure, but you can pre-select X users and data sources rather than picking the whole pool (just to figure out, later, what in the pool works for you.’  You can do both, but I think if the data is there….use it.  Don’t use it after the fact or because we forced you to do it.

What has had the greatest impact on Leapfrog and your respective clients (specific to lead-gen);  Mobile, Video, or Social? 
Mobile, by far.  We have some clients now where Mobile represents 50% of all customer sources.  And it’s not just lead sources, but real customer sources.  It went from zero to 50% in about 18 months and it’s growing at least one or two percent per month and just continues to grow.  We just recently launched a press release with Google that speaks toward this.  The results are category (or vertical) specific, clearly. At Leapfrog, our primary client verticals are Home Services, Auto, Telecom/Cable, Education, and Financial Services.  The smallest vertical (in terms of Mobile’s percent of customer source) is 10% and the highest is 55%.  Literally, it does not stop growing.  At first, it was incremental.  We were just seeing incremental and not really seeing any degradation in other channels.  Now, we’re seeing drops in traditional Desktop.  It’s very clear that is happening, in the categories we’re in.

What’s your favorite CIMA event each year? 
I have to say the Cubs [Rooftop Event].  I’m just a big Cubs fan.  Maybe not as exciting for others, but that’s usually my favorite one.

What’s your favorite part of living and working in Chicago (can be specific to digital media ‘scene’)? 
The amount of growth that’s coming out of Chicago.  The amount of innovation.  It’s one of the most exciting things, at least for me, in the digital space.  Since 2005 or really since 2007, it’s exciting to see the sheer growth and amount of people who’ve been truly successful, selling their companies to holding companies then starting new ones.  I was reading about a VC firm who added up all the [venture funding] and it’s just astounding how much money is in Chicago right now.  This market is now looked at as a place you go for innovation and it’s a great opportunity for people.  If you take a look around, you’ll see our industry is one of the few that’s really growing out there.  I mean, this job market isn’t shrinking…  It’s growing.  To me, that’s exciting.

Monday, September 19, 2011

DIGITAL NEWS: Pre-Event Panelist Interview With Bob Girolamo

CIMA will be hosting an educational event, “Take Your Online Lead Generation to The Next Level,” this Thursday at the Merchandise Mart’s Holiday Inn (If you’ve yet to register, do it here).    There, you’ll be joining a panel of industry experts, including CoolSavings’ General Manager & Q Interactive’s Media Group SVP, Bob Girolamo.

In anticipation of the big day, we decided to get some conversations brewing with each of our panelists, starting with Bob Girolamo.  Bob, an expert and seasoned lead-gen veteran with over 14 years of experience in the space, was able to squeeze me in for this phone interview today in between meetings. 

What made you decide to participate in this upcoming panel?   
The event seemed to be a good fit for my background.  We [Q Interactive] started around 15 years ago with the lead generation business.  When I say the lead generation business, we’ve worked with our clients to drive their leads as well as going out and acquiring new customers for the CoolSavings side of the business.  We’ve had a strong focus on both and this event seemed like a good fit for both.

What do you hope CIMA attendees will gain from the event? 
A better understanding of the lead-generation space, and realizing that just buying leads, in itself, will not create a successful campaign.  It’s called a lead-gen campaign, but the reality is that it’s  the beginning of a much larger marketing process.  That’s the entrance of the funnel…The sources are as important as what you do with it once you start talking to that consumer.

As we look at the surfacing of new mediums and platforms in the lead-gen space, what NEW challenges do you foresee arising and what EXISTING issues do you foresee ‘sticking around’ or remaining unsolved? 
The new challenge will be centered on how to create a cost-effective lead, and because we’re going into uncharted territories, the metrics aren’t readily available. You need to learn how to manage and acquire Facebook and Twitter leads.  And, how do you use these different mediums to generate a lead cost effectively, then understand the value of it.  I think there are different valued consumers coming from each different source and so it’s a learning process.  Unfortunately, testing is the only real way to gain the appropriate education.  So, those are the new and upcoming challenges. 

I think the existing challenge, and one that’s not going to change, is understanding the fraud side of the business. That will pop up again.  Facebook is fresh.  It’s very clean, and it’s great data, but someone is going to figure out how to game the system and you’re going to end up buying the phonebook.  So, how do we get ahead of that? How do we keep an eye on the quality and take on a more white hat approach?   

Looking at the new lead-gen space and what it is today, what changes/improvements would you like to see moving into 2012 and beyond?
The innovation of using Facebook and generating a ‘LIKE’ as a LEAD.  How do we, as marketers, start managing that process effectively and how do we continue communicating with consumers the best way that they want.  As a marketer, one of your biggest hurdles is going to be talking to the 20 somethings.  It’s going to be a very different conversation than what you have with the 40 somethings.  It’s a different type of conversation in how they want to be addressed and communicated with.  The overwhelming message from the 20 somethings is that they don’t want to be marketed to.  So, how do we talk to them without ‘marketing to them’ or making it a blatant sales pitch?  Anyone with those answers…I’m happy to hear. 

What has made the greatest impact on your business with respect to lead-generation;  Mobile, Video, or Social? 
Social, specifically Facebook, has been the one we’ve embraced most aggressively.  We see Mobile as a huge piece of the market, but we’ve not completed any of the mobile implementations.  Our application of Facebook is two fold:

1.) With Cool Savings, it’s increasing traffic.  It’s talking to those Cool Savings consumers and it’s growing that audience.

2.) With our clients, it’s helping them to grow their Facebook audience and really helping them understand what that communication looks like once they do get that LIKE.  There’s a whole team here behind those Facebook communications alone. 

Even overall, I would say that Facebook has had the biggest impact for lead-generation as of today.  As we see growth with Smart Phones and an increase in penetration, you’re going to start to see that same impact from Mobile as well.

What’s your favorite CIMA event? 
The boat cruise each year is a favorite event.  It’s a great crowd, and any time you’re able to get out on the lake and see the city from that perspective it’s really cool.

Why is Chicago the best place to live and work? 
The ten minutes between weather changes!  Really, the innovation in Chicago is overlooked.  The people in Chicago are down to earth – it’s the Midwest values.  We have all the innovation and technologies of the coasts mixed with the excitement of the opportunity to work with good people with good values.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

GAMECOCK NEWS: Navy Midshipmen Will Remember the Gamecocks for One Name After Today

Stephen Garcia? Not quite.

Melvin ‘Quick Six’ Ingram? Nope.

Jadeveon Clowney? Sorry, try again.

Marcus Lattimore or Alshon Jeffery? They sure as hell help, but no.

Give up?

It’s the monstrous chunk of Carolina concrete standing proud at the corner of Bluff Road and George Rogers Boulevard. The name is Billy Brice. For those of you playing at home, I’m referring to Williams-Brice Stadium (a.k.a. the 'Cock Pit' a.k.a. 'Billy Bob Brice' a.k.a. 'Ill Will'), and more importantly the fans inside it.

Today marks the first home game for the Gamecocks since they bulldozed Troy 69-24 last November, and you can guarantee tonight’s crowd will be greater than or equal to the rowdy, belligerent mob that gathered for that game.  There is no doubt that this Navy team has faced some 12th man situations on the road over the years, but when the Midshipmen march into USC' home front at 6pm this evening, they’ll be met by deafening hostility unlike anything they’ve ever faced.

The closest thing to Williams-Brice that these Navy players have ever witnessed was in their 2009 season opener against an over-ranked Ohio State team.  After spanking those guys in back-to-back Outback bowls, and after living in the Midwest (Chicago) for the past four years, I can tell you with full confidence that Buckeye fans are weak sauce, comparatively.  Fans that fill The Horseshoe are like the Taco Bell Mild sauce and the fans in ol’ Billy Brice are like Maurice’s Gourmet Barbeque Sauce with some added habanero.  You can’t even compare.

But don’t the Midshipmen play the Irish every year, you ask?  Yes, I am taking this into consideration as I type this post AT THE NOTRE DAME TAILGATE this very moment. I’ve gotten away with a lot of things tailgating in South Carolina, but what I’m doing now (sitting in front of a computer typing) would never fly.  Yeah, it’s 8am, but still I should be making rooster crows right about now.  I’m sure Notre Dame fans will flood the comment section here, but let me call you all’s bluff and kick reality about South Bend.  You want the truth?  The House That Rockne Built is like a library on game day compared to what goes on in Columbia.  The student section can be halfway intimidating, but the other 90% of the seats are filled with old retired folk.

Navy’s ground game can suck the energy out of most home team crowds.  A triple option offense is extremely frustrating to watch if you’re rooting for the defense.  It’s slow, it’s boring, but it works yard after yard.  This offensive strategy is known for ‘taking fans out of the game’ but it’s not going to happen this evening.  This team is different.  This stadium is different.  And this crowd is menacing.

Now, of course I have full faith in our coaches and players to pull off a victory.  I’m not saying that the 12th man is our sole key to a Gamecock win. I don’t care if they’re playing in Columbia, Navy, or the moon…The Gamecocks will beat Navy.  What I am saying is this.  There is a lot of aggression and revenge in the air tonight.  The Gamecocks have had some subpar play in their last two wins and so the next team might turn into a punching bag. Sorry, Navy.  That's you.

This post can also be found on my weekly Bleacher Report blog (make sure to check those out too!):