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South Alabama Jaguars at South Carolina Gamecocks preview: Keys to the game and prediction

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What does Carolina have to do to become bowl eligible?

Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Here are my keys to the game. If you're looking for info on the South Alabama Jaguars, this article contains an injury report and so forth.

Three keys to victory

3. Defense must continue to improve. Carolina played better on defense against Florida after moving Skai Moore to Mike linebacker in order to get Jonathan Walton more snaps at Will linebacker and moving Brison Williams back to safety. South Alabama has some weapons on offense, including mobility at QB, and this game will present a good opportunity for the USC defense to continue coalescing around the new lineup as it heads into the Clemson game, where it will need a good defensive performance to come out with a win. I'm going to be watching Walton particularly closely. Walton was in position most of the time against Florida but missed a couple of tackles. I'd like to see more consistency from him.

2. Put the game away early. USC needs to signal quickly that USA doesn't have a chance in this game in order to quell USA's confidence. Spurrier likes to entertain the crowd with the passing game and trick plays when Carolina plays teams like USA, but he'd do well to run his base offense and score a few touchdowns before he gets cute in this one. The longer USA is in the game, the more likely it is to develop the confidence necessary to play above its head and challenge for an upset in the second half.

1. Carolina must avoid turnovers. Most upsets in games like this--the spread is 24.5 in favor of Carolina--are built on turnovers. If USC is careful with the ball, it should win this game with relative ease. South Alabama is better than Furman. While doing a quick roster scan, I was struck how their lines at least look the part in terms of measurables like weight and height, so this isn't a team like Furman that's going to look like it has no place on the field with Carolina. Still, USC has a substantial talent advantage here, and USA will need USC to commit self-inflicted wounds to stay in the game long.

Prediction

Carolina shouldn't have too much trouble in this one. Let's say USC 42-14.