South Carolina Football: How to watch, storylines, injuries, expert picks, predictions vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M was SEC football's most underperforming group in 2022. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Texas A&M was SEC football's most underperforming group in 2022. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer will look to galvanize his troops for an on-field battle against the Texas A&M Aggies this Saturday in College Station.

Historically speaking, this matchup is one of the worst possible games to be on the schedule for the garnet and black when the team is in desperate need of a win. The Gamecocks have never won at Kyle Field as the Aggies are 4-0 and have outscored USC by a whopping margin of 133-65.

South Carolina Football vs. Texas A&M:
How to watch

Two teams needing a win (for different reasons) will match up on Saturday. At 12:00 on the SECNetwork and the ESPN app, South Carolina and Texas A&M will kick off both team’s 8th game of the year, with the Bonham Trophy on the line.

South Carolina Football vs. Texas A&M:
Storylines to watch

South Carolina won last year’s contest, the only time the Gamecocks have beaten the Aggies. A&M is 8-1 all-time against Carolina.

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo is on the hot seat. A loss to the Gamecocks might pull that seat completely out from underneath Fisher, though, he will have a soft landing spot in the form of a $77 Million buyout.

Shane Beamer is not on the hot seat in Columbia, but the Gamecocks’ struggles in 2023 have removed a lot of the goodwill from Carolina fans. Some coaching staff changes appear imminent.

A&M has the most productive defensive line in the country this season, while Carolina has one of the worst offensive lines in football. The Aggies are tied for first nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss. South Carolina is tied for 126th in sacks allowed and tied for 128th in tackles for loss allowed. Hits in the backfield could be plentiful on Saturday.

Making the offensive line woes even worse, South Carolina will be without starting right tackle (previously starting center) Vershon Lee, and starting right guard Tro Baugh and starting left tackle Tree Babalade are questionable. Cason Henry and Jaxon Hughes both remain questionable at tackle, as well.

Xavier Legette was banged up against Missouri (some outlets have reported that he was in concussion protocol as a precaution), and he is questionable for the game. Fellow star receiver Juice Wells remains out with a foot injury, and slot receiver Ahmarean Brown will not play due to a hamstring issue.

South Carolina Football vs. Texas A&M:
What experts are saying

South Carolina is an underdog against Texas A&M, just as they have been every year the game has been played other than the first meeting in 2014. Depending on which betting line one checks, the Gamecocks range anywhere from a 13.5 to 15.5 point ‘dog in this one.

ESPN’s FPI prediction machine gives South Carolina football just a 15.4% chance at the upset.

The college football team at Fox Sports predicts a 35-19 final score in favor of Texas A&M, which would see the Aggies cover.

Sports Illustrated’s SP+ model gives Texas A&M an 80% chance to win the game, and they predict a 34-20 victory for the Aggies.

The Greenville News’ Emily Adams shares a similar view of the game, projecting a 35-20 win for A&M.

South Carolina Football vs. Texas A&M:
Official Garnet and Cocky prediction

This matchup is flat-out awful for the current version of the South Carolina football program. The Gamecocks’ weaknesses play right into the Aggies’ strengths, and that alone will make this a difficult game for Carolina.

Spencer Rattler and the USC offense have been pretty good this season despite the poor play from the offensive line, an inconsistent running game, and injuries at wide receiver. That really speaks to the brilliance of Rattler and top target Xavier Legette. However, Legette might miss the game as he is questionable. Even if he plays, top slot option Ahmarean Brown is out, and preseason All-American Juice Wells remains out.

When the offense has struggled this year, it’s been when Rattler has no time to set his feet, work through his progressions, and give his receivers chances to get open. If the A&M pressure breaks through early, it could be a long Saturday afternoon for the men in garnet and black. With lineman Vershon Lee out, and Tree Babalade and Trovon Baugh questionable, things look bleak up front for USC.

Unfortunately, the most likely scenario is one in which the nation’s top sack unit continues its strong work against a patchwork offensive line unit.

Fans can expect offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains to do his best to “o-line proof” the game plan with screens, one-step drops, and other quick passing plays, but there will be points in the contest in which the Gamecocks must rely on a traditional passing game. When that happens, the Aggies will be ready.

On the other side of the ball, South Carolina’s struggles against the pass could play a big factor on Saturday, as well. The A&M receiver group, while not putting up the numbers many expected, is one of the most talented in the SEC. Max Johnson is as experienced as a backup quarterback can be, so the Aggies’ air attack should be able to eat up yardage in this one.

Ainias Smith is the top playmaker for Bobby Petrino’s offense, and he is often lineup up in the slot. One of Carolina’s biggest struggles this season has been manning up slot receivers as Tennessee’s Squirrel White, Mississippi State’s Tulu Griffin, and Florida’s Ricky Pearsall played in the slot a bunch against the Gamecocks, each having huge days (Griffin and Pearsall set career highs of 256 yards and 166 yards, respectively).

Jalon Kilgore seems to be the guy at nickel right now for the Gamecocks. If he can slow down Smith in the slot, that could drastically alter the flow of this game, but with his natural position being safety, it doesn’t seem as if leaving him on an island is the best plan. Fellow safeties DQ Smith and Nick Emmanwori have struggled when asked to play out of position this year.

The only path to victory for Carolina lies within doing the “extra” things well. Special teams will have return to its elite 2022 form. The Gamecocks will have to win the turnover battle. Carolina can’t miss opportunities to get off the field on defense due to missed tackles or penalties. The offense can’t go 3-and-out. If all of those factors flipped toward the Gamecocks, there would be a chance for an upset on Saturday.

However, unfortunately for South Carolina football fans, this game has the stench of non-competitiveness all over it as blocking the Aggies’ defensive line and keeping up with the talented receivers in maroon and white appear to be tasks that are too large for the struggling Gamecocks.

A less-than-elite A&M offense won’t light up the scoreboard, but they should be able to do enough to stay comfortably ahead for most of the game. A late score from the Gamecocks might make this one appear more respectable than it really was, but there’s little chance that possession of the Bonham Trophy will remain with the Gamecocks in Columbia.

17. 850. 34. 873. Prediction

A loss to the Aggies will mean that, barring a special 5-7 invitation (which has happened in the past), the Gamecocks will need to go 4-0 down the stretch to reach bowl eligibility. Carolina will play four in a row at home in November against Jacksonville State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Clemson.

The Gamecocks have never played the “other” Gamecocks of JSU but will welcome them to Williams-Brice Stadium for a 12:00 kick on ESPNU next Saturday. USC beat all three of the remaining teams on the schedule in 2022.

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