South Carolina is 2-2 leaving September and heading into October.
The stakes get a little higher and the games get tougher now, as the Gamecocks host No. 9 Texas A&M on Saturday (4 p.m. ET, SEC Network) at Williams-Brice Stadium.
We take a look at the matchup between the Aggies and Gamecocks:
When South Carolina is on offense …
It’s a bad matchup.
Texas A&M has one of the best defensive end duos in the nation with Daeshon Hall and Myles Garrett, arguably the top player in college football. The Aggies are getting into the backfield, and their pass rush is keyed by those two.
That’s not good news for an offensive line that has been inconsistent. The Gamecocks will get a boost from the return of Blake Camper, which gives Will Muschamp another body to roll out to protect Brandon McIlwain. This one will fall largely on the quarterback for USC, as McIlwain will be down at least one wide receiver and could be missing three.
He needs to hit throws downfield when the offensive line manages to give him enough time to go vertically. As was outlined in 5 key things earlier this week, the best bet probably is in quick throws to get the ball into playmakers’ hands. That could open up the run game more, especially for McIlwain.
Key matchup: South Carolina offensive line vs. Texas A&M’s defensive line
Key Gamecock: Brandon McIlwain
Overall advantage: Texas A&M defense
When South Carolina is on defense …
It’s an even worse matchup.
Texas A&M has one of the best skill position groups in the nation, especially at wide receiver. Christian Kirk, Speedy Noil and Josh Reynolds all are playmakers on intermediate routes and downfield.
Trayveon Williams has bolstered a rushing attack that was average last year but is dynamic now. And Trevor Knight has made it all go after transferring from Oklahoma.
South Carolina comes in with pretty good numbers through the first four games, but it did so against the likes of Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Now it is facing one of the best offenses in the country. The Aggies are tied for No. 16 in the nation in scoring (43.0 points per game) and No. 9 in total offense (545.8 yards per game).
South Carolina will have to limit explosive plays on the perimeter, stop the run and get pressure on Trevor Knight to have success. That’s a tall order for any team.
The up-tempo attack the Aggies bring wears down an opposing defense (see last week against Arkansas), and that is bad news for a thin South Carolina defense.
Key matchup: South Carolina secondary vs. Texas A&M offensive weapons
Key Gamecock: D.J. Smith
Overall advantage: Texas A&M offense