College Football Countdown: 31 Days Until South Carolina Gamecocks Kickoff

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We are so ready for football to return and especially South Carolina football. Today there are 31 days until kickoff.

31 is the number of sacks South Carolina's defense had last season.  Melvin Ingram paced the team with 10 on his own.  He's departed to the San Diego Chargers, but Jadeveon Clowney had 8 last season, and Devin Taylor had 6.  Expect the numbers for both of them to rise.  If teams decide to pass much against Carolina (and if the offense performs as expected they may have to) Clowney's and Taylor's numbers will improve.

There's nothing quite like a sack.  The offense has made the choice to put the ball in air to try to gain a chunk of yards.  Instead of that big positive or even the break even of an incompletion, they lose yards.  Expectations are ruined, and momentum is lost.

Sacks are often violent and beautiful.  A defensive end coming off the edge turns the corner and explodes into the quarterback.  His shoulder leads his body into the passer, and the collision causes the qb's whole body to buckle from the force.  Arms are wrapped around him while the defender's legs continue driving.  A secondary impact almost as jarring as the primary one rocks the passer's body as he is forced into the grass.

As demoralizing as it is effective, the sound of a sack echoes for the rest of the game.  Every time the quarterback drops back he wants to know where the rush is coming from.  He spends a little less concentration down field on his receivers and looks more and more for the d-line.  Each time he's taken down his attention wanes until he begins to pay more attention to those coming after him than those down field.

A sack has a cumulative effect beyond its initial yardage.  Sacks change games.  31 times last season, the Gamecocks forced their opponents backward.  31 times they shook the confidence of opposing quarterbacks.  31 times they made the offense pay for taking the ball away from the line of scrimmage to gamble with a pass.  31 different times USC's defense bent the flow of the game to its will.  Now there are only 31 days left until we get to see it again.

Get more great South Carolina sports analysis over at Leftover Hot Dog.