Ah, the South Carolina Gamecocks’ most hated rivals: the Aggies of Texas A&M. South Carolina continues a three-game homestand and plays its seventh straight contest of the season on Oct. 13, when it welcomes permanent West opponent A&M to Columbia. The Gamecocks finally get a bye in Week 8, but first, the Aggies must be dealt with. And as we’re all painfully aware, South Carolina has yet to beat Texas A&M since the latter joined the SEC.
Last meeting: In one of the more agonizing and frustrating defeats last season, the Gamecocks let a 17-7 third-quarter lead in raucous College Station evaporate, and the Aggies pulled out a late 24-17 victory. South Carolina’s offense sputtered in fits and starts and disappeared entirely in the fourth quarter, rolling up an impressive -26 yards. (Quarterback Jake Bentley was also sacked a total of seven times.) The Gamecock defense held up its end of the bargain, but the offense went too conservative too quickly, allowing A&M plenty of time to make a comeback — and slowly grinding the defense into dust. That it was the best chance South Carolina’s had to beat the Aggies — and it would’ve been an impressive road victory, too — made the loss a bitter pill to swallow.
Last season: The Aggies had an underwhelming 2017, finishing 7-6 overall and 4-4 in the league, which was good for a share of fourth place in the rugged SEC West. A&M opened its season with a wild 45-44 loss to UCLA that screamed “Kevin Sumlin is definitely fired,” but Sumlin got the Aggies back on track with a four-game winning streak until No. 1 Alabama came calling. After that, A&M picked up wins against Florida, New Mexico, and Ole Miss, but was outclassed by Mississippi State, Auburn, and LSU before notching a Belk Bowl loss to [checks notes] Wake Forest. Yeah, Kevin Sumlin was definitely fired at that point.
Player to watch out for: This one is a two-fer: Sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond, who at times ran wild on the Gamecocks last year, and sophomore quarterback Nick Starkel both saw significant playing time last season, but the QB1 spot is up for grabs. Since A&M joined the SEC, offense hasn’t been an issue for the Aggies, but 2017 was an up-and-down campaign for that side of the ball. If A&M can get some reliable production going from its quarterback, the offensive unit can help paper over the team’s defensive shortcomings.
Prognosis: With former Florida State head man Jimbo Fisher now in charge, the Aggies will be an interesting team to watch this season. The locals are clearly tired of getting pushed around in the SEC West, and Fisher was an incredible hire. But A&M doesn’t exactly have an easy schedule this season: The Aggies have a Week 2 clash against Clemson (albeit in College Station) and must go through the usual Western division gauntlet. However, they got a bit of break in drawing South Carolina and Kentucky as their East opponents, and with non-conference contests against Northwestern State, Louisiana-Monroe, and UAB, a bowl should certainly be within reach. Beyond that, we’ll see how many miracles Jimbo Fisher can work in Year 1.