Revenge and a Start Toward an SEC Conference Title
The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0) start their SEC Conference play against a cross-divisional opponent in the South Carolina Gamecocks (1-1). This matchup means more to Alabama than the start of SEC play for the 2019 season. The Tide and the Gamecocks have not faced each other since October 9, 2010. The No. 1 ranked Tide lost to the No. 19 Gamecocks 35-21 in Columbia, South Carolina. That loss would be the first loss of a painful three-loss season coming off a National Championship the season before. Alabama is looking to get an extra revenge factor against South Carolina
This game turned quarterback Stephen Garcia into a legend in Gamecocks culture and got the NFL world to see prospects such as running back Marcus Lattimore, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, outside linebacker Melvin Ingram, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore. A win this Saturday would bring get Alabama one game closer towards an undefeated season and SEC Championship run. This win would also be a revenge game for Alabama to get the bad taste out of their mouths from South Carolina after nine seasons.
Battle in the Trenches
The key for both teams will be in the trenches on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. So far this season, the Crimson Tide offensive line has given up only one sack. They have allowed seven tackles for loss including four from the week one matchup against Duke. This Saturday, Alabama will be playing a Gamecocks defense that has accounted for four sacks and 14 tackles for loss. This defense thrives on havoc plays and getting in the backfield. Alabama’s offensive line seems more stable now after shifting around their starters. They have encountered problems with allowing some pressure on Tua Tagovailoa, especially from the edge. One of the biggest reasons for the upset from South Carolina in 2010 was the allowed seven sacks from the Tide’s offensive line. They will need to play in midseason form to avoid an offensive collapse in the game.
Duke and New Mexico State have hurried their offense to avoid consistent pressure from the Alabama defensive line. The problem with their offensive gameplan is that they still couldn’t drive the ball down the field. This is an Alabama defense that constantly finds its way into the backfield. Outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings and defensive end LaBran Ray each have accounted for a sack. They will get their chance to face a Gamecocks offensive line that gave up three sacks and seven tackles for loss against the North Carolina Tarheels. The Tide can take a page out of the Tarheels’ defensive playbook to cause constant disruption against South Carolina’s offense. South Carolina’s offensive line did not allow a sack or tackle for loss against Charleston Southern last week.
Playing Efficiently on Both Sides of the Ball
It is not just about outgaining opposing offenses for the Crimson Tide and their high-power offense, it is about capitalizing. So far this season, Alabama’s offense is tied for eighth-most total yards accounted for with 1,115 yards. The Tide’s offense is also 50% on third downs against both Duke and New Mexico State. They have also only given up one turnover through both games. The Tide will be looking to get the running game going with running backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr. after they establish the fast tempo passing game. In the game against North Carolina, the Gamecocks defense gave up 483 total yards to the Tarheels’ offense. Further, 238 of those yards came from the rushing game.
Alabama’s defense will face a new offense led by freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski. Last week against Charleston Southern, he passed for 282 yards, two touchdowns, one interception on 24 completions (out of 30 attempts). He took the title of starting quarterback job as Jake Bentley will miss the remainder of the 2019 season with a fractured foot. The Gamecocks rushed for 493 yards and eight touchdowns on 38 total carries against the Buccaneers last Saturday. This was against a lower-level FCS opponent, but Alabama freshmen linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris will need to be the leaders of this run defense. Safety Xavier McKinney leads the Tide’s defense in total tackles with 14 tackles. He is a player that quickly reacts to the ball. He will also be a huge impact player in stopping the rushing attack of the Gamecocks’ offense.