COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina is back in nonconference play Saturday against Massachusetts.
And the Gamecocks have to be feeling good about their chances of getting the second half off to a good start.
We take a closer look at the matchup with the Minutemen:
When South Carolina is on offense …
The quarterback question is back again, but with a third candidate supposedly in the mix. It could be Perry Orth again. A change could be made to Brandon McIlwain. Or the new candidate, Jake Bentley, could make his debut.
But whomever is the choice has the best opportunity to date to get the offense past the 20-point mark.
UMass has an average defense and was shredded a week ago by Louisiana Tech. The Gamecocks are coming back from bye week healthier, especially at wide receiver, and with time to re-evaluate and “self-scout,” as defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said Thursday night.
The Gamecocks should have success through the air and on the ground, as Rico Dowdle continues to look like the best overall back on the roster. UMass is without its senior leader, linebacker Shane Huber, for the remainder of the season. That’s a big loss for a unit that has struggled to force turnovers (two interceptions in seven games) or stop teams (468.6 yards per game).
This game might be the most important for the Gamecocks’ offensive line, which has a chance to establish itself and set the tone.
It all does come back to the quarterback, though, as Bentley has been the buzz this week. He very well could be the best passer on the roster – he looked the part in preseason camp in limited stints. Either way, Saturday looks promising for the USC offense.
Key matchup: South Carolina passing attack vs. UMass secondary
Key Gamecock: Deebo Samuel
Overall advantage: South Carolina
When South Carolina is on defense …
Pins your ears back, boys.
UMass has allowed 29 sacks this season, the second-most in the FBS. For Darius English and Co., that has to be a good feeling. The Gamecocks are going up against an offense with two quarterbacks, although Ross Comis might miss Saturday with an injury. But neither Comis nor Andrew Ford (a Virginia Tech transfer) has had much success this season.
The Gamecocks come into this week after putting in work on run gaps and cleaning up little mistakes on run defense. Georgia had no problem exploiting those and had more than 300 rushing yards. USC should have no such trouble stopping UMass, which barely averages 100 rushing yards per game.
The one thing to be wary of with UMass is some big plays, as that is how the Minutemen stuck with Mississippi State and had the Bulldogs on the ropes late. Wide receivers Andy Isabella and tight end Adam Breneman (a Penn State transfer) both make plays down the field and account for much of the offense’s scoring.
But with the way South Carolina matches up in the trenches, Ford and/or Comis should have a tough time in the pocket. Stopping the run and rushing the passer should be on South Carolina’s minds and it should do both well.
Key matchup: South Carolina defensive line vs. UMass offensive line
Key Gamecock: Darius English
Advantage: South Carolina