COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – Following their bye week, the South Carolina Gamecocks return to Williams-Brice Saturday to take on No. 7 Texas A&M Saturday night.
The Gamecocks (2-3) are back home after a week off to face their third ranked opponent of the season.
Collin Hill will be getting the start after there was some speculation about the team turning to either Ryan Hilinski or Luke Doty. But Head Coach Will Muschamp put that theory to bed earlier this week, stating that Hill gives them the best chance to win.
After having an efficient start to the season, Hill’s production has dipped over the last two games. In that time he’s completed just 27 of 46 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions. It doesn’t help that those turnovers came at very inopportune times, one was returned for a touchdown.
Kevin Harris has remained the biggest threat on the team, as he’s provided much needed balance for the Gamecocks. Along with that, he’s had a nose for the end zone. If the passing game improves, South Carolina will be tough to keep off the field. But if they fail to garner enough momentum through the air against the Aggies, they will be in for a long night. Muschamp detailed the team’s commitment to the run below:
The defense has stumbled over the past couple weeks as well. While the lack of offense has certainly contributed to difficult circumstances, the Gamecocks’ defensive unit is coming off of a game in which they allowed LSU to put up 52 points on them. And while they did collect three interceptions of Bo Nix in their matchup with Auburn, USC gave up over two hundred yards on the ground before allowing over two hundred and fifty yards to the Tigers from Baton Rouge. Note: A&M is averaging just over 174 yards rushing per game.
And after racking up three sacks against Auburn, they were held out of the stat column against LSU. They’ll need to get after the quarterback early and often in order to stall Texas A&M’s balanced attack. And the aggies have only allowed two sacks of quarterback Kellen Mond all season.
The Aggies comes in as the No. 7 ranked team in the country with a 4-1 record, their only loss coming against Alabama.
Kellen Mond (#11) is the focal point of the offense. The senior quarterback has had an up and down season thus far, however. Mond ranges from a 56% completion percentage to 80%. But he’s taken great care of the football, contributing just two interceptions this season.
Mond can definitely move, but he’s more of a mobile quarterback within the pocket, maneuvering into open space. But beyond the sticks he hasn’t been terribly effective with just 78 yards rushing. He’s a huge part of their success on third down, though. With a 59% conversion rate, the Aggies rank second in all of college football. Their passing offense is middle of the pack as is their rushing attack. They present a lot of balance, and in a West Coast style offense, they aim to move the ball down the field quickly.
Isaiah Spiller (#28) is their lead back and is averaging six yards per carry this season. He’s also recorded five touchdowns this year. A selection to the SEC All-Freshman team last season, Spiller has a high motor, making it tough to bring him down. He’s a bruiser in that way, but can convert power to speed very quickly as well, displaying great burst. He won’t completely out run defensive backs, but Spiller has the vision to take advantage of lapses in gap discipline. And he’s built to withstand a heavy workload, making him a valuable asset deep in games.
Tight end Jaylen Wydermyer (#85) is used often in the passing game. He leads the team with 25 receptions. Chase Lane (#2) and Caleb Chapman (#81) are the other primary targets on the team. Both are big play threats and they have combined for five touchdowns. Chapman, however, has only played three games this year and already has three touchdowns. At 6’5”, he’s a matchup nightmare, and will likely see plenty of Jaycee Horn.
Michael Clemson (#2) sticks out on the defensive line. He’s a difficult body to move as he stands 6’5” 270 pounds, and is a power rusher from the 3-tech position. He leads the team with four sacks this season and is exceptional at plugging the gaps. He also has 4.5 tackles for loss in 2020.
Buddy Johnson (#1) is the leader among the linebackers. In a 4-2-5 scheme, Johnson is relied upon heavily to work free against the run, and also make plays in space. They have a lot of experience in the secondary, and have plenty of physical defensive backs.
As a whole, though, they’ve surrendered nearly 175 yards rushing per game. And their defensive pass efficiency ranks 100th in the FBS. There is plenty of opportunity for the Gamecocks offense to get back in rhythm Saturday night.
South Carolina matches up well with the Aggies, and despite their high national ranking there are several weaknesses the Gamecocks can attack.
USC should be able to rack up the yards on the ground with Kevin Harris and company, while being able to take their shots downfield. A strong start has been key for South Carolina so far, and they’ll look to continue that in order to force the Aggies to go to the air sooner rather than later.
A defense that has managed ten sacks this season will need to apply pressure on an experienced quarterback in Mond in order to stymie the quick-paced A&M offense. Given they had an additional week of preparation, South Carolina could have a solid chance at another upset of a ranked opponent this weekend.