No one in Gamecock nation wants to think about what happened the last time the Gamecocks and Aggies met on a football field, so let's not. In a new year, and now with a new head coach, anything is possible, especially when you add the quirkiness that is an 11:00 am "blackout" start for the home team on Halloween. Weirder things than a Gamecock upset have happened. Right?
Here's three keys to the game if the Gamecocks hope to turn a two game Aggie losing streak into three.
1. Continued Struggles. Back-to-back puzzling appearances by Kyle Allen coupled with fighting words between OC Jake Spatival and top-Texas recruit Kyler Murray have left the Aggies with a question mark at quarterback heading into this week and the rest of the season.
This isn't the first time Sumlin has seen an offense falter mid-way through it's schedule, experiencing a similar mid-season plunge last year. However, reasons for such a lapse in consistency offensively may be more complex this year. Allen has thrown 1 TD to 4 INT's the last two games against Alabama and Ole Miss and Murray may be letting an unblemished high school record and three state championships get to his head.
Word out of College Station today is that the true freshman Murray will make the start Saturday against the Gamecocks, which makes it the second time this season the Gamecocks defense goes up against a true freshman making his first start (see Missouri's Drew Lock). I'm hopeful the D has better luck this time around.
The Gamecocks defense will need to rattle the speedy youngster early with pressure in hopes for some erratic throws and mistakes.
2. Myles Garrett. The SEC sack leader serves as no short order for the Gamecocks o-line. With Alan Knott back at center, Shawn Elliot's boys are back to full strength. Garrett leads his defense with 13.5 tackles for loss this season and the Gamecocks offensive front will do everything they can to limit his infiltration into the back field.
Coming off a lackluster performance against Ole Miss last week, look out for a tenacious effort from Garrett this week. If the Gamecocks offense can fend off his pressure and find a way to pound the ball for positive yards with Brandon Wilds, it'll go a long way in deciding the outcome of this one.
3. Energy Unbound. Win today has become Shawn Elliot's calling card in motivating his troops. And while I'm sure it's a slogan he enacted long before with his o-line unit, it's a message the entire team now hears everyday.
Since taking over for the resigned Steve Spurrier, Elliot has done everything he can to bring an abundance of energy to this team. And it's my guess the past two weeks of practice have been some of the most high energy sessions this football program has had in a long while.
If South Carolina has any chance against the arguably more talented and athletic Aggies, there going to have to out-hustle them and fight to win every play. If the Gamecocks can win the majority of the plays then they'll win the day and walk out of Kyle Field with a trick for the Aggie faithful.
Prediction. Your guess is probably as good as mine, so why don't you take your shot at a prediction.
Maybe the progression we've seen from the Gamecocks defensive front hasn't been a fluke and they can provide some consistent pressure on whoever is back there slinging it around. Maybe the defense can force multiple turnovers like it did against Vandy. Maybe Perry Orth can finish off drives in the red zones for touchdowns. And maybe, just maybe, the Gamecocks can win today.