This week’s Q&A comes from the courtesy of our Tanner Spearman at Underdog Dynasty, so shout out to them for giving great answers. Just a reminder, if you guys have any questions for next week’s game, please comment them and I will pick a couple of them to answer. With that being said, let’s keep her goooooing.
1. From an outsider’s perspective, what are some of the glaring weak links for the Gamecocks this week? Strengths?
To be totally honest, I don't watch a lot of SEC football, and even less South Carolina. That said, I've heard Jake Bentley's name thrown around a lot since last year, so I'd say an outsider would immediately hone in on him as a strength. As for weaknesses, I hate to see injuries, but the absence of Deebo Samuel could leave a huge hole in the offense. This is in no way a slight to the other receivers, but when your best wide out isn't playing, that can make an impact.
2. How should the Gamecocks plan on stopping the LA Tech offense?
Stop the run. QB J'Mar Smith is a talented guy and he's got some talented receivers around him, but there's a lot of youth. Smith only had one start prior to this season, a 20-21 loss at Arkansas to open last year. Tech's two stud receivers from last year are in the NFL now, so a lot of young and inexperienced guys are having to step up. Early on the passing offense looked incompetent. They looked much, much better last week, but it's not quite where Tech wants it to be just yet. On the other hand, Tech has two senior running backs in Jarred Craft and Boston Scott who are trying to take some of the burden off the passing game. If South Carolina can shut down the run and force Tech to win via the pass, I'm not 100% confident the passing game is in a position to do that just yet. Maybe if this was a November game, but not yet.
3. What’s the fan feeling about this match up?
Who knows? This season has been a roller coaster thus far. There were high expectations going in to this season, which were dampened some by a lackluster first three quarters against an FCS opponent. There was still some optimism about the Mississippi State game. One of the worst teams in the SEC coming to Ruston? Tech can win this game, right? After an early 9-0 lead, things went south fast, and fan optimism bottomed out. Last weekend did some good things, though. One, Tech went on the road and defeated the two-time reigning C-USA champ, WKU. WKU has been down this year as well, but they hadn't lost a home conference game since 2014, and Tech had never won in Bowling Green, KY in three prior attempts. Tech looked a lot more comfortable offensively, especially passing. Smith looked much better and more confident. Two, Mississippi State crushed that team from Baton Rouge that doesn't know the difference between "yellow" and "gold," showing that they are actually a pretty good team, not the 6-7 team from last year. So getting blown out stings a little less. At this point, I wouldn't say Tech fans expect to win by any means, but there is a cautious optimism. Winning would be a pleasant surprise, but Tech fans feel like there's a chance.
4. What are some of LA Tech's weaknesses that South Carolina would be able to expose with their talented position groups?
After having one of the best passing offenses in the nation last year, new faces are feeling growing pains. I have no idea how good the passing game will be this week, but I think they've been improving from week to week. Still, assuming South Carolina's defense doesn't suck, they could cause some issues in that department.
5. What South Carolina player makes you the most scared for Saturday?
I'd say Jake Bentley. Last year, Tech's defense (especially pass defense) was atrocious. They've seemed better this year, but a talented quarterback could expose them if the improvements aren't for real.
6. Any big injuries that Gamecock fans should know about?
As far as I can tell no one too major is out. Jaqwis Dancy missed last week, but he's the third string running back. I only mention him because he's a fan favorite after kicking cancer's butt last year. Wide receiver Alfred "Tarzan" Smith missed the last two games, but if he doesn't play this week there are other receivers to take his place without significant incident.
7. Who’s winning this ball game?
If you put a gun to my head I'll say South Carolina, but I think La Tech has a better shot than the 7.6% chance ESPN is giving the Dawgs.