Teams: South Carolina (3-1, 1-1) vs. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0)
Rankings: South Carolina (#58 S&P+) | Texas A&M (#30 S&P+)
Kickoff Time: 6:30 p.m. CT/7:30 p.m. ET
TV: SEC Network
Watch Online: WatchESPN
Last Time We Met...: Texas A&M took down South Carolina 24-13 in 2016.
Series History: The Aggies and Gamecocks have met three times in each of the last three seasons. The Ags have never lost to South Carolina.
Spread: Texas A&M opened as 11-point favorites. The line has since bumped down to 7.5/8 points.
O/U: The total opened at 56.5. It was docked down to 48.5, 49, 49.5 and 50 depending on location.
Records ATS: South Carolina (2-2) | Texas A&M (2-2)
The South Carolina Gamecocks and Texas A&M Aggies are both 3-1 this season. It feels like both teams are nearing pivotal points of the season even as the end of September nears. That may make this week’s game between the two teams all that more important.
The Aggies are coming off of a thrilling OT victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks. The game was as wacky, wild and zany as the previous installments led us to believe it would be. Christian Kirk starred yet again and there’s certainly optimism - at least for a week - in College Station. A home win this weekend may help to continue that sense of positivity. Especially since big, bad Alabama comes to town next week.
The Gamecocks, meanwhile, didn’t have it easy against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. South Carolina survived with a 17-16 victory at Williams-Brice Stadium a week ago. The loss of Deebo Samuel seemed to hit the offense hard. As expected. Against a top-flight offense, Rico Dowdle, Jake Bentley and the bunch will need to muster up their best effort yet. Otherwise, a 1-2 start in SEC play looks likely.
Containing the Aggies, who seek more efficiency
Points-wise, the Aggies have crushed it this season. They’ve put up more than 24 points in all four of their games this season. Two times they landed with more than 40 (44, 45), and they of course scored 50 last week.
Efficiency-wise, A&M could use some improvement. The team ranks 73rd in the Efficiency Factor, one of the ‘Five Factors’ with a mark of just 41.5 percent. They rank 57th in Finishing Drives (Points Per Trip in 40) and the marks are no better than average at best in Rushing and Passing Success Rate.
Part of the reason that passing has struggled, so to speak, has just been the ambiguity at QB. Three QBs have taken snaps this season, but it seems one is taking the ball. That would be freshman Kellen Mond. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound has amassed 99 pass attempts this year, throwing for 649 yards in the process. He has six TDs and two INTs, but his Y/A and Comp% could use some improvement. Those are the breaks when you play a freshman, though.
Mond, opportunities and sack rates
Mond, though, will get a chance to see improvement. That’s because the Gamecocks’ defense hasn’t been great at defending the pass. That’s putting it nicely. South Carolina ranks 114th in Passing Success Rate on defense. Their mark of 47.4 percent is 7.1 percent better than the FBS average right now. They have been good at stopping explosive plays, but their numbers aren’t looking good anywhere.
They haven’t been able to get to the QB well either. Their Havoc Rates are all 74th or worse, sans their D-Line. But the sum of all parts suggests that Will Muschamp’s defense is struggling and struggling mightily.
At the same time... Texas A&M haven’t exactly been stalwarts, either. On Standard Downs, they’ve only allowed sacks 3.0 percent of the time. That mark ranks 40th in the country. On Passing Downs however, it’s an entirely different story. The FBS average for PD Sack Rate is 7.5 percent. Texas A&M’s, through the first four weeks, is at 13.2 percent. That’s enough to rank 114th in the country right now. That’s not a good place to be, to put it mildly.
Gamecocks look to get what they want on the ground
South Carolina’s rushing offense squeaked its way into the Top 50 this week in Rushing Success Rate. It’s still not a great place to be, but they got what they wanted last week against LaTech. On the whole, they picked up a rate of 59 percent in their win against the Bulldogs. Being that the FBS average is 41 percent, it’s fair to say that the Gamecocks had themselves a day on the ground.
Ty’Son Williams, not Rico Dowdle, was instrumental in that. Williams averaged 7.31 yards per carry last week, which would’ve been a game high had Bentley not rushed for 28 yards on three carries himself. His 95 yards led the way by multiple furlongs. He was, without a doubt, the best back on the field for South Carolina.
He might be one to watch for against an Aggies defense that has struggled a bit. They weren’t all that great against Arkansas a week ago in Arlington. The Aggies permitted 6.79 yards per carry and 254 yards total against the Hogs. Williams and Dowdle could find themselves salivating if the Ags can’t get it done.
If you can’t get the gist of it from this preview, this game will be won in the trenches. With mysteries up front on both ends when it comes to sacking the QB and stopping the run, we’ll be looking at an intriguing matchup up front on both ends of the field.
The Aggies have plenty of offensive weapons at their disposal. Kirk, Keith Ford and Trayveon Williams will certainly be the best players on the field on Saturday. Bentley, Dowdle and Ty’Son Williams are no slouches themselves. But, without Deebo, the Gamecock offense will have to survive any way they can.
Sometimes it doesn’t go this way. But, in my opinion, talent wins out here.
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, South Carolina 24