South Carolina Opens SEC Play With Tough Test

South Carolina opens SEC play in Athens this weekend as a 32 point underdog to Georgia. After spending Sunday watching the film, Shane Beamer had loads of praise for the talent on the Bulldogs roster. He knows the challenge his team will face this weekend. Georgia is ranked second in the nation after a 2-0 start. The Gamecocks won on their last trip to Athens in 2019. Both teams will be looking to go to 3-0 and win their first conference game of the season.

South Carolina Opens SEC Play on the Road

The Gamecocks escaped with a 20-17 road victory against East Carolina this past week. They did not play particularly well for most of the game, but they made the plays necessary to get the job done. They cannot afford to play the same this weekend. If they struggle, especially on offense, like they did last Saturday, it will be a long day in Athens. The Bulldogs are loaded, and there is already little margin for error for this South Carolina team. The Gamecocks are 5-6 in the last 11 meetings against their SEC East rival.

Under Center

The big question as South Carolina opens SEC play is who will start at quarterback.  Zeb Noland was not at his best in the first half against East Carolina, but he made the plays he needed to down the stretch. If he starts this weekend he can’t be off his game for an extended time. The grad assistant turned starting quarterback has been solid through two games. He will need to elevate his performance to give his team a chance on the road this Saturday. Noland has found a connection with Josh Vann at receiver. He needs to find some success early so the Bulldogs can’t just attack the line of scrimmage to stifle the Gamecock running game.

There is a high possibility that Luke Doty will make his season debut in Athens. He was scheduled to be the team’s starter heading into the season. A foot injury derailed those plans. Beamer says his quarterback should be ready to go this week. Doty will bring an added element to this offense with his running ability. However, getting his first game reps of the season in a new scheme against this Georgia defense is not an ideal situation.

There will also be questions under center for the Bulldogs.  J.T. Daniels and Stetson Bennett have each started a game this season. Both signal-callers are currently listed on Georgia’s injury report. It could be a game-time decision as to who starts at quarterback for both teams.

Defensive Struggle

These two rivals enter this game with defenses ranked in the top five nationally in yards allowed. South Carolina will be hoping that trend continues from their side. They have not proven equipped to win a shootout on offense, so they will need this one to be more of a slugfest. The garnet and black defense have been disruptive from front to back through two games. Their defensive line is living up to expectations and has proven to be a deep and talented unit. Linebackers Damani Staley and Brad Johnson are playing the best football of their careers right now. Johnson leads the team in tackles and Staley’s pick-six versus ECU was a key moment in the game.

The secondary hasn’t been truly challenged yet, but they have performed well so far. Cam Smith, Jaylan Foster, and Darius Rush have all shown flashes of what they can do. The Gamecocks’ best chance to win in Athens is to harass whoever the Bulldogs line up at quarterback and to keep this a low-scoring affair. A defensive touchdown for the third consecutive week would also be a welcomed sight.

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Tested

South Carolina opens SEC play with arguably their toughest test of the season. Georgia is a legit national title contender and the Gamecocks will need to be at their best in all three phases to have a chance. Coach Beamer knows the challenge his team will face in Athens. His team will need to protect the ball and their quarterback better than they did last week. They cannot wait until the second half to find a rhythm on offense, this game will be out of reach by then. The defense has been excellent and will need to continue attacking the line of scrimmage and forcing turnovers. If they can keep it close into the fourth quarter, then maybe the pressure of the upset could work in their favor. Again, they will need to play much better than they have in their last two victories to make it to 3-0.


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