A tough one before a much-needed bye week.
After pulling off a wild come-from-behind victory against Vanderbilt that still kinda felt like a loss, the South Carolina Gamecocks are taking this crazy show on the road to College Station, where they’ll face off against Texas A&M before finally and blessedly reaching their bye week. As we all know entirely too well, the Gamecocks have yet to beat the Aggies since the latter joined the SEC, and the trophy conjured up for this annual “rivalry” has been collecting dust in A&M’s facilities for far too long. Here’s a quick look at the state of things ahead of the big day.
What have they been up to lately? Oh, you mean besides beating Alabama? Because yeah, that happened — not that I find it overly concerning or anything. The Aggies (5-2, 2-2 SEC) opened 2021 with a three-game winning streak (although that included an ugly 10-7 victory over Colorado) before falling 20-10 to what was a then-surging Arkansas team and dropping a close 26-22 result the following week to Mississippi State. But then the Ags put on a show, slaying the Alabama juggernaut 41-38 and proving they had no hangover the following week with a 35-14 drubbing of Missouri. It’s safe to say A&M is on an upward trajectory.
What happens when the Gamecocks have the ball? Well, to the delight of color commentators everywhere, Zeb Noland and his unique origin story are back under center for South Carolina. Noland, who authored one of the best two-minute drills the Gamecocks have had in years against Vanderbilt, will bring a more accurate passing attack with him, although he’s largely a statue in the pocket. Once again, it’s critical that South Carolina gives its quarterback some more support in the run game, and that receivers don’t forget their hands at home. Noland sure didn’t look rusty against the Commodores, but A&M is obviously on a different talent level. For someone who was thrown so unexpectedly and so last minute into an emergency role, Noland has shown a lot of poise — we’ll see how much of that he can hang onto in College Station.
What happens when the Aggies have the ball? A&M has found recent success in running the ball, and while a dominant rushing performance against Mizzou doesn’t say much, this is an area where the South Carolina defense has recently started to wilt. The Aggies’ passing attack hasn’t been as productive as it has in recent seasons, so I assume they’ll likely lean on Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane — the former of which has been a Gamecock killer — to keep things humming on the ground. This could definitely be the type of game in which a distressing amount of third downs are barreled over and through.
What are we wearing? I was grateful to see the return of garnet pants a couple weeks ago at Tennessee, so I’m hopeful for either those or black pants this week — maybe a different helmet too, since the classic garnet one came back out for Vanderbilt. I know I’m in the minority, but I just can’t get down with the all-whites.
How are we feeling about this? Seeing is believing, and while South Carolina has managed to turn in some competitive performances against A&M, I won’t feel like we’ve got a chance until the clock hits zero and the Gamecocks are on the right side of the scoreboard. The Aggies are officially the new Auburn (although it hopefully won’t take literal decades to notch a W in this series), and whatever mojo they have over South Carolina is a dark and powerful force indeed.