Fighting to get back to even in the win-loss column and with a bowl berth in mind, the South Carolina Gamecocks play host to No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday. With a renewed sense of purpose as a top-10 team and potential dark-horse candidate for a College Football Playoff invitation, the Aggies hope to avoid a pitfall in Columbia against a team with talent that already has an upset on the resume this season against Auburn.
The Aggies (4-1) will stroll into Williams-Brice Stadium with all the confidence in the world after taking down a scrappy Arkansas team 42-31 last Saturday. In statistical terms, the Razorbacks outperformed the Aggies compiling 461 total yards to 442, but A&M got the job done on third down with a more physical attack up front. A&M converted 7-of-11 third-down opportunities, keeping drives alive that aided in the big win.
The last time we saw South Carolina, it did not appear that we saw the actual Gamecocks. Fresh off a 30-22 win over then- No. 15 Auburn, South Carolina traveled to Baton Rouge to face LSU and left Death Valley with a 52-24 defeat. The Tigers laid it on for 31 first-half points and dominated the line of scrimmage, including a season-best 276 rushing yards. With a bye week to heal nagging injuries and to focus on fixing execution issues, South Carolina has the ability to play spoiler against the visiting Aggies.
No. 7 Texas A&M at South Carolina
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas A&M -10
When Texas A&M Has the Ball
Against Arkansas, Kellen Mond became the Aggies' all-time leading passer during his 260-yard, three-touchdown performance. The senior had one of his better games of the season with no interceptions while completing 81 percent of his passes. He also did not take a sack for the fourth consecutive game. Mond's sweet spot is throwing for about 252 yards per game, which is right in line with what South Carolina is allowing (247.8 ypg).
When seeing Mond smile, one could guess someone just said running back Isaiah Spiller's name. The super sophomore is ranked fourth in the SEC in rushing yards (512), averaging a robust 6.0 yards per carry. Spiller has three 100-yard games but was stymied for 82 yards on 21 attempts against the Razorbacks. He did punch one into the end zone just before halftime giving Texas A&M a 14-point lead at the break. The Aggies also have two other rising playmakers in tight end Jalen Wydermyer and slot/running back Ainias Smith. Arkansas had no answer down the middle of the field for Wydermyer, who hauled in six passes for 92 yards with two scores. Smith added a rushing and receiving score to the final tally.
Putting pressure on the South Carolina offense is seeing its defense give up 30 points per game to the opposition. The Gamecocks' defensive front started off the season with an iron curtain but has allowed 200-plus rushing yards in back-to-back games. Ernest Jones is the man in the middle of the Gamecocks' defense with a team-leading 55 stops. In the secondary, Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu are ballhawks and each has already recorded two interceptions.
When South Carolina Has the Ball
When Mike Bobo left Colorado State to become the Gamecocks' offensive coordinator, he brought transfer quarterback Colin Hill with him. Hill is a serviceable field general but is not the quarterback capable of taking South Carolina to that next level. There was excitement after his first game against Tennessee when he threw for 290 yards, but he has regressed since. He has a tendency to hold on to the ball too long, as he's taken a sack in every game and went down five times against LSU. If Hill struggles against Texas A&M might we see sophomore Ryan Hilinski for the first time this season?
Unless you're a college football diehard or an SEC fan through and through, Kevin Harris might not be on your radar. But he is one of the nation's best-kept secrets. Harris has quietly gone about his business posting 535 rushing yards with eight scores, both good for second in the SEC. The sophomore tailback has proven he can be a 20-plus carry performer and has three 100-yard games this season. His partner on the outside is receiver Shi Smith, who is among the conference leaders in receptions (36) and yards (415) and also has three touchdowns.
Texas A&M's defense has been solid this season, especially considering the competition, but there are holes. This unit has locked down teams fairly well (375.8 ypg), but are still giving up nearly 30 points (29.4) per game. Furthermore, the Aggies are not getting off the field on third down, letting teams convert more than 45 percent of the time. Going strength against strength, A&M has fared better against the run. Their 104.8 rushing yards per game allowed is second only to Georgia in the SEC. Harris could be in for a long day.
As Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher has revamped the Aggies' roster to his liking and vision, the offensive line has become one of the conference's best. With the balanced attack between Kellen Mond's arm and Isaiah Spiller's legs, A&M can pound on teams for four quarters until the opposition's spirit is broken. For South Carolina, quarterback Collin Hill does not have the gunslinger mentality or attributes to make an SEC team elite. November has not been A&M's month on the gridiron in recent years. Can the Aggies avoid another letdown?
Texas A&M leads the all-time series with South Carolina 6-0. Make it 7-0 after Saturday night.
Prediction: Texas A&M 38, South Carolina 21
Podcast: Week 10 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.