Saturday’s matchup in College Station, Texas features two unranked teams looking to not only salvage their season but looking to find their identity, as both teams are going through major midseason changes.
South Carolina is coming off a bye week after defeating Vanderbilt two weeks ago. Under interim coach Sean Elliott, the Gamecocks look to even out at .500 and push Elliott to 2-0.
Following its 23-3 loss to Ole Miss, Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin told the media Tuesday the Aggies had opened up competition at quarterback. Entering Week 9, and in the midst of conference play, the Aggies can’t afford to drop another game due to inconsistent play on offense.
Here is everything you need to know about Saturday’s contest:
South Carolina Gamecocks (3-4, 1-4 SEC) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC)
Kickoff: Saturday Oct. 31, noon ET (SEC Network)
Weather: 74 degrees, partly cloudy, 25 percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Texas A&M -16.5
By the numbers
35.3 – Completion percentage from Kyle Allen (12-for-34) in the Ole Miss game before he was benched in the fourth quarter.
20 – Total tackles by Aggies defensive back Armani Watts against Ole Miss. Last Aggie to post that many stops in a game was by linebacker Dat Nguyen in the 1998 Cotton Bowl versus UCLA.
104,248 – Average number of fans in attendance during the four games played at Kyle Field so far this season, which leads the SEC in home attendance.
Storylines to watch
You’re the man, now
Sumlin named freshman Kyler Murray the team’s starting quarterback this weekend. Murray, a true freshman who had a previously reported run-in with the coaching staff, will get his first college start against the Gamecocks. He played in select drives during five out of seven games this season, completing 17 of 31 passes for 167 yards and has thrown a touchdown and an interception. But how will he handle being given the offensive reins?
SEC’s Legion of Boom?
The physicality and playmaking abilities of safeties Armani Watts, Donovan Wilson and Justin Evans have provided a major boost to the Aggies defense this season. Watts has brought the boom to the Aggies secondary as the team’s leading tackler with 69 total. Wilson has filled his stat sheet with 44 tackles, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and two sacks. And for Evans, most Aggie fans will be quick to point out the play where he lit up Alabama running back Derrick Henry, as one of the 46 tackles that he has to his credit.
Putting an end to the five-and-dive
Texas A&M will be looking to avoid its second consecutive 5-3 start after beginning the season 5-0. The Aggies haven’t claimed a victory since Oct. 3 when they defeated Mississippi State 30-17.
A Texas A&M victory would make the Aggies bowl eligible for the sixth straight season. The Aggies have played in 36 bowl games in program history and have w0n their last four bowl games.
Prediction: Texas A&M 23, South Carolina 14
If Murray gets the nod from Sumlin on Friday, he will get his first career start against South Carolina. His debut most likely won’t be spectacular, as he could go through some growing pains. But eventually, he should be able to find a way to get the ball in the hands of wide receivers Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Christian Kirk enough times to put points on the board.
Texas A&M’s defense will do more than enough to keep the Aggies in the game, and kicker Taylor Bertolet could be the difference in the game.