What: Texas A&M @ South Carolina
When: 6:00 ET
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, South Carolina
TV: SEC Network
At First Glance
The Gamecocks are coming off their third consecutive 11-win season and have their sights set on winning the SEC East once again. Gone is leading passer Conner Shaw and receiver Bruce Ellington, as well as defensive star Jadeveon Clowney. The good news for South Carolina is that leading rusher Mike Davis is back to carry the load at running back. He ran for 1,183 yards a year ago and scored 11 touchdowns. The Gamecock offensive line (lead by center A.J. Cann) is one of the most experienced in the conference and should help take some of the load off of new quarterback Dylan Thompson who has had ample experience during his career but must improve on his career completion percentage of 55%. USC certainly suffered significant losses on the defensive line as they will have to replace three standouts. Linebacker should be a major strength, however and sophomore Skai Moore should be the leader of the bunch. South Carolina should find themselves in a great position to win the east in 2014, although their west schedule becomes a bit tougher as they drop Arkansas and Mississippi State for Auburn and Texas A&M.
With the departure of much-ballyhooed quarterback Johnny Manziel, the Texas A&M Aggies will be searching for a new identity in 2014. Without Johnny Football leading the offense, there is no doubt that running backs Tra Carson and Trey Williams will play pivotal roles especially with unproven sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill at the helm. The Aggie defense ranked 109 nationally a year ago which was a major reason why the team wilted down the stretch. The secondary was especially deplorable in 2013 and they will need someone besides cornerback Deshazor Everette to step up at that position. Depth at defensive line will be a huge strength for Texas A&M this season as they will welcome back all four starters and backups from last year. Coach Kevin Sumlin has been cleaning up on the recruiting front, specifically in his own state as Texas A&M raked in the sixth-ranked class in 2014. There is a lot of talent in College Station, but unless the defense improves by leaps and bounds, the Aggies will be unable to finish much higher than fifth in the division.
What Does it all Mean?
South Carolina is the favorite to win the SEC East and Texas A&M is rebuilding. Obviously, there is a ton of young talent down in College Station and Kevin Sumlin has done a wonderful job infusing energy and excitement into the program. The Gamecocks are a 9.5 point favorite in this game, mostly due to a veteran offensive line and superb running game. If A&M is able to keep the game close, or win it outright, then both SEC divisions could be turned upside down immediately.
Keys to a South Carolina Win
- Run the ball. Mike Davis is one of the best backs in the SEC, so logic dictates that he be allowed to carry the load in this game.
- Dylan Thompson. Doesn’t have to be great, but needs to be good. Does the term “game manager” mean anything to anyone?
- Limit mistakes. Seems obvious. South Carolina is the better team on paper and should win the game if they limit stupid mistakes and turnovers.
Keys to a Texas A&M Win
- Win the turnover battle. Simple, right?
- Quarterback Kenny Hill. Johnny Manziel was a complete unknown at one time too…
- Keeping the game close. South Carolina has won 18 straight home games entering the 2014 season. If A&M can keep it close, especially out of the gate, it could help neutralize the home field advantage.
South Carolina 31 Texas A&M 17