Hey SEC fans, guess what did NOT happen last week?
For all those who wondered if there was going to be any kind of letdown for the Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC) following that huge upset of then-No. 1 Alabama, worry not. After one quarter of play at Missouri last week, A&M had 21 points on 184 yards on offense and added two interceptions on defense. By the time the carnage was done, the Aggies had eased their way to a 35-14 win in Columbia. No problemo.
Now, as for South Carolina (4-3, 1-3)? Ugh. The chicken coop is starting to smell a bit. Though they pull into town with a 4-3 record, their wins have come against the likes of FCS Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, Troy, and Vanderbilt. In last week's home game against the Commodores, the Garnet & Black needed a last-second touchdown to escape being an upset victim, winning 21-20. This will be the fourth real team they play this season.
South Carolina at No. 17 Texas A&M
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Spread: Texas A&M -20
When South Carolina Has the Ball
It's sort of a bad news-good news thing for the Gamecocks. The bad news is that starting QB Luke Doty is out for the rest of the season. The good news is that Zeb Noland not only has starting experience, but he is the hero of the week after coming off the bench and leading the offense on a 75-yard touchdown drive in the final minute to beat Vanderbilt. But now comes the hard part, trying to score on this Aggies defense. The Cocks are averaging just 21.9 points per game (13th in the SEC). They'll be facing an A&M defense that is second in the SEC, giving up just 16.4 points per game. Sounds like it'll be a tough nut to crack for Noland and Co. 'coz, you know, this ain't exactly Vandy they'll be facing.
Another good sign from the Vanderbilt win was the return of ZaQuandre White at running back. The redshirt senior had missed the previous three games but came back to run for 65 yards on 12 carries. Imagine if White can keep it chuggin' and also if Kevin Harris can finally get untracked? Harris has been a mystery for sure. He was first-team All-SEC last year when he ran for 1,138 yards and 15 TDs. So far this year, his biggest game was 61 yards against Tennessee. He has also seen his yards per carry average dwindle from 6.2 last year to 3.5 in 2021.
South Carolina is second to last in the SEC, having surrendered 17 sacks. Meanwhile, the Wrecking Crew defense is 10th nationally with 21 sacks of their own. After watching Vanderbilt get some good pressure on Doty most of the game, it's easy to see that the Aggies will probably go pell-mell at Noland and disrupt that Gamecock passing game.
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
The best thing A&M can do is put the ball in the hands of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane and just let 'er rip. The Gamecocks are actually pretty good defenders against the pass, ranking 17th nationally giving up 176 yards through the air. So it stands to reason that the Aggies look to come out and crank up the ground and pound. Last week at Mizzou, Spiller ran for 168 yards and Achane ran for 124 yards as the two averaged 8.4 and 7.8 yards per carry, respectively. Can't imagine they'll abandon that potential for domination against the Gamecocks this week.
Going into last week's game at Missouri, the A&M red zone performance through the first five games had been pretty poor. Nine touchdowns in 19 trips. Egad. But they seemed to turn that around last week, hitting paydirt on all four of their trips inside the opposing 20. But if the Gamecocks are going to make this a four-quarter game, it'll be paramount for them to hold the Aggies to field goals instead of touchdowns. Oh, and getting a couple more turnovers than the Aggies would help as well.
If revenge is any factor, give the Gamecocks an edge going into this one. South Carolina has never beaten A&M, going 0-7 since their first meeting in 2014. On top of that, the Gamecocks also should have a sizable chip on their shoulders after taking a 48-3 arse-whippin' in Columbia last season. I'm sure they still have the welts to prove it too.
But let's face it: even with all that incentive, the Cocks don't have the talent that the Aggies do. They also don't have the confidence that they do either. The biggest key comes down to one simple comparison: One of these teams beat Alabama. The other team celebrated wildly over beating Vanderbilt by one point. Yep, this one is a no-brainer.
Prediction: Texas A&M 42, South Carolina 17
Podcast: Previewing Week 8 + CFB Expansion + Washington State Coaching Search
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.