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South Carolina vs. Charleston Southern: Keys and a pick

This should be a nice pick-me-up.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks enter Week 2 as a bit of a wounded bunch, literally if not figuratively, after their bruising loss to North Carolina. Fortunately, a kinder matchup awaits in the Buccaneers of FCS program Charleston Southern, who will open the home slate at Williams-Brice. With a new quarterback and some new throwback threads, the Gamecocks will look to bounce back in style.

The keys

Set Ryan Hilinski up for success. With former starting quarterback Jake Bentley injured and possibly done as a Gamecock, the highly-touted former four-star prospect from California will get his first crack as the leader of the Garnet and Black. This is an ideal opponent for his first time under live fire, but it remains to be seen how much of the playbook will be available to him. It’s going to be a long and tough season ahead, so hopefully Hilinski can have the luxury of easing into things and getting off to a confidence-boosting start.

Get the defense back on track. South Carolina’s defense entered 2019 with no small amount of hype, given the return of key injured veterans and increased depth. Unfortunately, the unit turned in an uneven and disappointing performance against North Carolina, falling apart in the fourth quarter and giving up back-breaking drives of 95 and 98 yards as the Tar Heels mounted a comeback. Much like the rest of the team, the defense could really use a tune-up against lower-level competition to get some mojo back.

Stay healthy. Avoiding injuries is technically key for any football game, but especially one against an opponent like Charleston Southern. With the schedule like the one South Carolina has to contend with, there’s no reason for any starters to be playing beyond the first few minutes of the third quarter. While USC’s depth has improved, this team still does not have the luxury to withstand injuries suffered in a meaningless game.

The pick

South Carolina should comfortably cruise in this one — Vegas has it pegged as 40.5-point favorites — and give the hometown crowd something to cheer about. It’s hard to say how much we’ll be able to take away from this game, but even if it’s nothing but warm fuzzies, I’ll sign up for that.