South Carolina football: Gamecocks must stop Tank Bigsby

The South Carolina football team must have its eye on this freshman on Saturday.

The Auburn offense has been a bit inconsistent this season, ranking 13th in the SEC in total yardage at 328.7 yards a game. The group also ranks in the bottom half of the league in scoring at just 21.7 points per contest.

With that being said, the Tigers have faced two of the conference’s top defenses in Georgia and Kentucky over the first three games, both of which gave the Auburn offense fits. The unit looked a little better this past weekend versus Arkansas, but still nearly gave the game away late in a controversial 30-28 win.

Despite the struggles, there’s been a youngster who’s risen to the top of the depth chart, and he’s making a major impact on Gus Malzahn’s group.

Freshman running back Tank Bigsby is currently leading the SEC in all-purpose yards. Not Najee Harris. Not Kyle Pitts. Not Jaylen Waddle.

Bigsby is pumping out an astonishing 161 yards per game (64 rush, 28 rec, 69 ret), and he’s a threat running the ball, catching it out of the backfield, and as a return man. He’s the conference’s leading kick returner thus far in 2020.

If Bigsby’s name sounds familiar to South Carolina fans, that’s because he was almost a Gamecock. During the recruiting process, Bigsby nearly committed to Will Muschamp’s staff, with rumors that he even filmed a commitment video while on a visit to Columbia. In the end, though, he chose the Tigers, and he’s making a name for himself in the SEC.

The Gamecocks are going to need to lock in on stopping the talented back, who’s fresh off of his best performance of the season, rushing for 146 yards and posting another 106 yards in the return game.

South Carolina does rank near the top of the league in every major defensive category, boasting the SEC’s third-rated unit, but they’ve struggled at times defending the run. Last week in its dominant win over Vanderbilt, the Gamecocks allowed 99 yards on 19 carries to Commodore running backs, over 5.2 yards a pop.

In the week one loss to Tennessee, tailbacks Eric Gray and Ty Chandler combined for 126 yards on 25 carries. And though the Gamecocks held Florida to just 80 yards on the ground in week two, the defense still allowed over 4.6 yards a carry to Gator running backs.

If South Carolina is going to have a chance at the upset, they’ll need to bottle Bigsby up. If not, it’s going to open up play action and misdirection opportunities for quarterback Bo Nix, who’s also a threat to run out of the backfield.

The play at the line of scrimmage will define this game, and the Carolina front seven must answer the call and limit explosive plays from the Auburn rushing attack.