Carolina football is back this week, and the first game back from the bye week is a doozy.
The Gamecocks are taking on Texas A&M, who was ranked before losing two-straight to ranked teams (Alabama and Ole Miss).
Both teams are in dire need of a win; South Carolina to keep bowl hopes alive and A&M to get back on track. The Gamecocks haven’t beaten an SEC West team since 2013, when they beat Arkansas and Mississippi State in the same year.
To try and snap the three-game losing streak against West opponents, they have to travel to Texas A&M and Kyle Field to try and upset the Aggies.
Here are some key players to watch when the Gamecocks kick off Saturday at noon.
He came back from injury against Vanderbilt with a vengeance, rushing for over 100 yards. He’ll need to have a big game on the road if the Gamecocks want to win. Texas A&M is allowing opponents to rush for 200 yards per game, which gives Wilds ample opportunity for running room.
This guy cannot catch a break. Started at Georgia, at LSU and now at Texas A&M. He’s going to need hearing aids put in after this season with all of the noise he’s had to endure; and next week he goes to Neyland to play. Geez. Orth has commanded the game well since Nunez was injured, and he’ll need to be consistent again if he wants to Texas A&M’s pass defense, which ranks third in the SEC, has forced six interceptions this year and is allowing only 191 yards per game. Orth will need to find a way to breakdown this defense if the Gamecocks want to be successful.
Okay, Texas A&M’s defense is pretty good. They have one of the best pass rushers in the country at defensive end with Myles Garrett, who has 8.5 sacks already this year. The Aggies have 21 sacks this year and are averaging three per game, which is third best in the SEC. The offensive line will have their hands full trying to protect Orth and give running backs room to move, but if they can it could spell success.
Last year, Texas A&M’s offense looked unstoppable against the Gamecocks, but the past two weeks the team has sputtered offensively. The Aggies are still a spread offense with speedy playmakers, and it’ll be up to the linebackers to either pressure whoever starts at quarterback and take away the middle of the field. If Skai Moore, TJ Holloman and Bryson Allen-Williams can limit the underneath passes and force A&M to go more vertical, it could create a very one-dimensional Aggie team.
Another big part in the Gamecocks’ pressure of Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray, Jake Hubenak or whoever will be starting at quarterback for the Aggies. If whoever is back there is uncomfortable in the pocket, then the Gamecocks can force some mistakes. After starting slow this season, Lewis has blossomed the past three games with 21 tackles and two sacks. He’ll be a big part of the Gamecocks trying to get after the passer and stop the run.