COLUMBIA, S.C. – Bye week has come and gone and South Carolina is back in action. The Gamecocks host Massachusetts with a scheduled noon kickoff Saturday.
We take a closer look at the matchup:
1. Start anew
It’s the second half for South Carolina, which had a bye week at a good time. The Gamecocks are closer to being healthy than they have been in some time.
So with a reset button of a bye week that gave opportunity for re-evaluation and rest, there is no time better for the Gamecocks to feel like it’s Week 1 again.
2. No taking it lightly
South Carolina is inexplicably a 21-point favorite in Las Vegas despite having scored 20 points – and only 20 points – just once this season.
So that’s a thing. The Gamecocks have to be wary of going up against a team that it should handily beat. Watching film this week should give them good reason not to think too highly of themselves or too lightly of UMass: The Minutemen stayed close against Florida and Mississippi State.
3. Third downs
Third on this list might as well be third downs, which have not been a strong point for a struggling USC offense. South Carolina ranks No. 124 of 128 FBS teams in converting third downs at 27.1 percent this season.
The good news is USC is facing an average UMass third-down defense, so this could be a week to start sustaining some drives.
4. Start early
This is a two-fold key. First would be the obvious interpretation: South Carolina needs to get off to a good start after a week off. But the biggest meaning is from the early game time.
The Gamecocks have played night game after night game this season. At least, it seems that way. This is the first noon game of the season, but early football should not be too much of a challenge for the Gamecocks. They practice in the mornings, so it should be old hat to be running around a field at 11 a.m. warming up on Saturday.
5. Score some dang points
Statistically, UMass has the worst defense South Carolina has faced this season. It is allowing 33.3 points and 468.6 yards through seven games. USC’s offense has been abysmal, as has been well documented. So something will have to give in this one.
There’s no better game on the schedule for the Gamecocks to start clicking offensively, as they think they are close to doing.