COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur.com) - South Carolina will host Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon with kickoff set for 3:30 PM. The game will be televised nationally by the SEC Network and this article takes a look at what the Gamecocks must do well to ensure victory.
1. Run the football – This will be key number one for South Carolina for the foreseeable future. It is the most important aspect of the team that must improve to win football games. It starts with play calling and play design, but the players must also execute, particularly on the offensive line. The running backs are talented enough to produce, but they need room to run and to be put into a position to succeed.
2. Next man up – South Carolina not only lost the game to Kentucky last week, they also lost their top offensive and special teams playmaker in Deebo Samuel for at least several weeks. While there is no one person who can replace Samuel at receiver or kick returner and produce at the same level, the Gamecocks have to make sure there is not a huge drop off without Samuel on the field. Randrecous Davis figures to be the wide receiver whose snaps will increase most, but OrTre Smith will also likely get more opportunities. Rashad Fenton could now figure into the kick return equation. The team will also be faced with replacing Zack Bailey at right tackle, and that responsibility will fall mainly on Malik Young.
3. Shore up the kicking game – South Carolina's kicking game was in shambles last week, as Alexander Woznickand Parker White combined to miss three field goals and an extra point. Considering this team is likely going to be involved in several close games as the season goes on, it is imperative that they build some confidence starting this weekend. White will take over as the full-time kicker and kickoff specialist and a productive day could be a springboard for him in future games.
4. Get off the field – The South Carolina defense played relatively well last week against Kentucky, but the glaring issue was its inability to get off the field on third and fourth down. That trend has to be reversed starting this week, as Travaris Robinson's group needs to win on third and fourth down as often as possible and play particularly smart football in those situations.
5. Protect the ball – South Carolina also hurt itself with two interceptions last week against the Wildcats, and they cannot afford to have a repeat of that this week. Quarterback Jake Bentley has not been able to find a consistent rhythm so far this season, and this is the kind of game where he should have an opportunity to get back on track. He needs to make good decisions on when and where to throw the ball and the ball carriers need to continue to protect the ball as well.
Final analysis – South Carolina is more than a touchdown favorite in this contest, and if they can ignite the running game, the Gamecocks have a good chance to cover that number. However, if Louisiana Tech is able to make them one-dimensional as Kentucky did last week, then this one could be another fourth-quarter game.
My guess is it will not always be pretty, but I do think the Gamecocks will be more balanced offensively and do enough on defense and special teams to get the win and spoil Skip Holtz's return to Columbia.
Prediction – South Carolina 30 Louisiana Tech 24