Game Day Preview: What you need to know about The Citadel-South Carolina
South Carolina’s final two games of the season come against in-state rivals, including Saturday’s matchup with The Citadel. The Gamecocks aren’t playing for the SEC championship or even bowl eligibility at this point, but coaching positions and starting jobs for next season could be on the line.
Shawn Elliott is 1-3 as South Carolina’s interim coach and is coming off the most lopsided loss of his tenure against Florida. Meanwhile, The Citadel is looking to top the Gamecocks for the first time since 1990.
Here’s what else you need to know about Saturday’s showdown:
The Citadel Bulldogs (7-3) @ South Carolina Gamecocks (3-7)
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 21, noon ET (SEC Network Alternate)
Weather: 61 degrees, 10 percent chance of rain, 7 mph winds (Weather.com)
Line: South Carolina -20
Series history: South Carolina leads 40-7-3
By the numbers
2 — The Citadel’s triple-option offense has produced the second-most rushing yards in the FCS. Six Bulldogs have rushed for 400 yards or more, and 11 have found the end zone. Dominique Allen leads the way with 697 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. South Carolina owns the nation’s 104th-ranked rush defense and ranks 13th out of 14 SEC teams. The Gamecocks have allowed opposing teams to pile up 100 yards on the ground in nine of 10 games.
20 — South Carolina is riding a three-game losing streak but has lost those games by a combined 20 points. The first two losses came on the road at Texas A&M and Tennessee. Last week’s 24-14 loss to Florida at Williams-Brice Stadium was the most lopsided loss since Elliott was named interim coach.
22 — South Carolina has won 22 consecutive non-conference games at home. The last time the Gamecocks dropped a non-conference game at Williams-Brice Stadium was in 2007 against Clemson in the regular-season finale. Since 2006, the Gamecocks are 9-0 against FCS opponents. They have defeated Wofford (2006, 2008, 2012), South Carolina State (2007, 2009), Furman (2010, 2014), Coastal Carolina (2013) and The Citadel (2011).
Storylines to watch
Will Elliott pull the plug on Perry Orth?
South Carolina put forth its worst offensive performance of the season a week ago against Florida. The Gamecocks amassed 201 yards of total offense and only 21 yards rushing. Orth threw a pair of interceptions and upped his season total to eight. It wasn’t until the game was out of reach that Orth awoke to make the final score look a little less lopsided. After the game, Elliott acknowledged he considered benching Orth before the fourth quarter, which makes us wonder whether Connor Mitch or Lorenzo Nunez could get the nod under center or see extended playing time this week. Both Mitch and Nunez have started two games this season.
Can the South Carolina defense show up?
The Citadel owns the FCS’s second-ranked rushing offense and will face one of the most vulnerable defenses in the country. South Carolina has allowed 300 yards or more in five consecutive games and have given up more than 500 yards twice in that span. Only twice this season have the Gamecocks held an opponent below 300 yards — against UCF (230) and Missouri (299). There should be legitimate concern that South Carolina will be unable to slow down The Citadel’s triple-option attack because, well, it hasn’t been able to slow down any running games this season. Over the last six games, opponents have racked up an average of 222.7 yards rushing.
Matchup to watch: The Citadel pass rush vs. the South Carolina offense line
South Carolina running back Brandon Wilds was held to 12 yards on eight carries last week as the Gamecocks totaled 21 yards rushing, a season-worst performance. Additionally, the offensive line surrendered four sacks, as pressure up front by the Gators flustered South Carolina in a big way. The Citadel is not Florida, but it does rank second in the Southern Conference with 23 sacks, including eight from defensive lineman Mitchell Jeter. South Carolina is starting freshman Blake Camper at right tackle in place of an injured Mike Matulis, making the Gamecocks all the more suspect against what could be a pretty stout pass rush.
My prediction: South Carolina 30, The Citadel 21
South Carolina has scored 30 points or more only once — in a 31-14 victory against UCF — so it’s hard to expect a truly lopsided win at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday. Early on in Elliott’s tenure as interim coach, it appeared as if the Gamecocks were a more competitive team. They beat Vandy the week Steve Spurrier retired, then lost to Texas A&M and Tennessee on the road by a combined 10 points. However, last week’s loss at home to Florida has left us with a bad taste in our mouths, and South Carolina’s stock is at a season low. The team can either rebound in a big way with a victory at home Saturday or continue to cave in a game it should win. In no way is this game a “gimme” for the Gamecocks, but perhaps Elliott can pull enough of the right strings and fire them up enough to get by here.