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South Carolina vs. Akron: Keys and a pick

Let’s finish this thing off the right way.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks wrap up their regular season in unusual fashion tomorrow at noon against the Akron Zips, with both teams pairing off to make up earlier games that were canceled because of weather. South Carolina is bowl eligible, but limping to the finish line with its injuries, while Akron is limping along as well with a 4-7 record. While the stakes in this one aren’t terribly high, it’s important for the Gamecocks to finish on a high note and secure that chance at an eighth win in the postseason.

The keys

Keep the same energy. The Gamecocks have flipped the script in recent games, shrugging off the slow starts that plagued them earlier in the season and instead coming out firing. Although South Carolina didn’t win all of those games, it’s still enjoyed a lot of offensive success when it gets off on the right foot. After a closer-than-expected defeat to Clemson, there may be a bit of a letdown factor — especially since this an oddly-timed makeup game played on championship weekend. But if South Carolina wants to do this the stress-free way — and give some of the seniors a special home send-off — the Gamecocks will keep the pedal to the metal. All gas, no brakes, right?

Get some confidence back in the defense. That side of the ball has had a rough go of it lately, between injuries and playing against high-powered opponents like Clemson. With a couple players set to return (and A.J. Turner trying his hand at nickelback), hopefully that gives this unit a boost. It should also help that Akron ranks 126th (out of 129) nationally in total offense and 120th in scoring offense.

Stay healthy. Please, for the love of god. If any key contributors are banged up, go ahead and limit their snaps or pull them out entirely. The Gamecocks will have roughly a month between this game and their bowl, so they’ll at least have time to rest after Akron. But it’d be nice to not see any new additions to an already packed injury ward.

The pick

I’m not expecting to see an encore of the performance against Chattanooga, because Akron is not only FBS, but also scored an upset against Big Ten West division champion Northwestern earlier this season. But this is still a game South Carolina should comfortably win, especially given the offense’s performance of late. I’ll go with a 34-10, 37-13 type of result.