In fact, it isn’t anything in human form at all.
It’s the prospect of complacency.
The Gamecocks play an Austin Peay team Saturday that hasn’t won a game and is ranked among the bottom three of 122 FCS football programs in most of the major NCAA statistical categories.
The game figures to be a pushover, but one a team trying to stay in the conference championship hunt can ill-afford to take lightly.
The Governors have scored only 40 points all season and have been beaten by an average of 37 points a game.
The Gamecocks have never lost to them since the Govs rejoined the OVC as a scholarship-giving football program in 2007. The closest game was 35-22 in 2008.
JSU defensive end Chris Landrum knows all too well about the dangers of overlooking a perceived weak opponent.
As a junior at Sweet Water High, his team made the mistake of overlooking a weaker Loachapoka squad in the playoffs and had its state championship dreams shattered 19-17.
“Having learned that lesson of overlooking somebody, it’s easy for me to not overlook them now,” Landrum said Monday. “You don’t want to overlook anybody and take breaks in practice and end up in a game hurting you knowing you could have done this or that in practice and could’ve made this or that play had you worked at it.”
The Governors have been working just to be relevant. They rank 120th in total offense, passing offense and passing efficiency, and 100th in rushing. They’re 119th in pass efficiency defense, 118th in scoring defense, 111th against the run and 100th in total defense.
They’ve produced more than 300 yards of offense only twice this season and given up more than 400 yards seven times.
Clark is wary of the Govs despite their record.
Sure, they’ve lost 45-0 and 38-3 to the two SEC teams on a schedule considered the second-hardest in the country and 63-7 to Eastern Illinois, but they’re coming off a 38-14 loss to Tennessee-Martin that coach Kirby Cannon said revealed some good signs for the future.
They had a season-high 322 yards of offense in the game. Redshirt freshman quarterback Timarious Mitchell threw for 100 yards and two touchdowns. And sophomore running back Omar Williams ran for 122 yards.
“If you look at the landscape of college football, people are giving up 60 and 70 points and just getting drilled. You don’t see that out of this team,” JSU coach Bill Clark said. “These are not just massive blowouts. I just don’t see this horrible team that just a bad record indicates.
“I’ve seen bad teams, team that don’t take snaps, Bad News Bears. These guys lined up against Tennessee, they lined up against Vanderbilt. They’re not going to be scared of us. They’re not intimidated. It’s not like they’ve played an easy schedule. Maybe if they played some different teams, they might have them a win or two.”
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.