I really don't know what to think about this game. I originally projected this game as a loss, but A&M has had a lot more negativity around the program at this stage than I was anticipating. Here's some thoughts:
- This game begins a 3-game stretch where South Carolina could potentially wreak havoc on SEC coaching ranks. Texas A&M, Arkansas, and Tennessee all have coaches on the upper-end of the hot seat rankings, and those seats are trending hotter after the first 4 weeks of the season. As it was with Will Muschamp at Florida, a loss to a mediocre South Carolina team could put these fan bases over the top. Given the buyouts involved this is unlikely, especially for Bielema, but it could happen.
- With the inability of true-Freshman Kellen Mond to throw the ball consistently, the Aggies have successfully relied on their rushing attack this season. They're averaging over 260 yards / game on the ground, and I expect the Gamecocks to stack the box early and dare A&M to throw. South Carolina is currently ranked 55th in rushing defense after 4 games.
- The competition the Aggies have faced so far hasn't been great. UCLA beat the Aggies in unbelievable fashion in the first game, but is giving up over 43 points / game and lost to Memphis. Arkansas has only beat Florida A&M and got hammered by TCU. They were tied with middle-of-the-pack FCS team Nicholls State in the forth quarter. Their only convincing win was against 1-3 Louisiana from the Sun Belt. It's hard to tell how well the A&M offense will perform in this game, since they haven't faced a team with a decent defense yet this season.
- Now that Deebo Samuel is out for the season, A&M's Christian Kirk is the most dynamic player in the conference. Parker White will need to keep drilling kicks out of the back of the end zone to keep him in check on special teams.
- The Offense will again be without starters Corey Helms and Zack Bailey on the right side of the line. Donell Stanley looked good after shifting to RG, and Sadarius Hutcherson was impressive in his first major action at LG. If the Gamecocks can keep a surprisingly good A&M pass rush in check, Bentley should have success throwing the ball.
- Depth in the secondary is improving with utility man Steven Montac returning to health. Keisean Nixon has also apparently been getting work at corner so that he can be able to get on the field faster.
If we had Deebo, Zack Bailey, and Bryson Allen-Williams available, I would have the Gamecocks edging out a victory here. With those guys not available, however, I have to think South Carolina stays winless against the Aggies. Prediciton: USC 28 - Texas A&M 31
You can see last year's game against the Aggies below.