South Carolina Football Three Keys: Alabama


South Carolina football hosts Alabama on Saturday in Columbia, SC. Here are your three keys to a South Carolina win over Alabama.

By Matt Zemek

The South Carolina Gamecocks are moving along with their season, and Jake Bentley will not be a part of it. That is the last thing Will Muschamp or anyone in the program needed, but it is the situation the Gamecocks face. Now the SEC colossus, Alabama, comes to Columbia. What do the Gamecocks have to offer Nick Saban and the Tuscaloosa Death Star?

Key 1 – Go for broke

The most annoying aspect of a lot of football coaches, college and pro, is that they play conservatively in big games. Yes, it is true that if you go for it on fourth and two from your own 40 in the first quarter, and you fail, you are asking for a 62-0 loss, an ugly beatdown which spirals out of control in the game’s first 10 minutes. No one disputes this.

However, if you punt on fourth and two from your own 40, you give the ball back to Tua Tagovailoa, who is likely going to score a lot anyway. By going for it, you at least give yourself the chance to convert the first down, which keeps the ball away from Tua and allows your offense to not only score, but drain more clock time.

South Carolina players will be fired up for this game, but will the coaching staff be aggressive and actually try to win? Punting more often on fourth down does mean that Alabama is more likely to score 38 points than 62, but it merely means that defeat will happen more slowly. Going for it a lot does invite the possibility of a super blowout – losing by 50, 60 or 70 points – but it also invites the possibility of actually winning a game outright, since an underdog team has to make lots of value-added plays to have any real chance at an upset.

Losing by 20 and losing by 40 are still decisive losses. South Carolina has to risk losing by 40 in the pursuit of winning. Planning to lose by 20 offers very little chance of actually winning. Risk is part of the deal.

Key 2 – Throw long

Ryan Hilinski racked up a lot of gaudy numbers against Charleston Southern. That doesn’t mean he will do the same against Alabama, but it does mean he can lead this offense with a fundamental grasp of what he needs to do. Seeing South Carolina score a lot of points can only help Hilinski’s confidence. Let’s give it a whirl and see what he can do against an Alabama defense which was not that special in 2018.

South Carolina’s neighbors from Clemson could tell you that challenging Alabama’s defensive backs is a great way to attack the Bama defense. Pounding the ball between the tackles is a lot less effective. Getting 20 or more yards per shot is the way to move the ball against a Saban defense – it has always been the case during his tenure in Tuscaloosa. South Carolina needs to throw to set up the run… and throw to gain most of its yards.

Key 3 – Ball control

Run the play clock down to 1 in the first quarter… and the second quarter. If the game is close in the third quarter, keep doing this. It is imperative to play a 60-minute game in which minimizing Tua’s time on the field is a constant priority for the Gamecocks, whose best defense against Bama is a great offense which is potent but also able to drain time.

Saturday‘s game kicks off at 2:30 PM CT (3:30 PM ET). Watch on the CBS Network.

This Week’s SEC Football News and Analysis

GameFirst Looks3 Keys
HighlightsFinal Stats
Kansas State vs. Mississippi StateKSUMSUPreviewKSU 31, MSU 24Stats
Colorado State vs. ArkansasCSUArkyPreviewArkansas 55, CSU 34Stats
Northwestern St vs. LSUNWSULSUPreviewLSU 65, NWSU 14Stats
Florida vs. KentuckyFLA / UKUK / FLAPreviewFlorida 29, UK 21Stats
Kent State vs. AuburnKent St.AuburnPreviewAuburn 55, Kent St. 16Stats
Alabama vs. South CarolinaUSC / BamaBama / USCPreviewBama 47, USC 23Stats
SE Missouri St vs. MissouriSEMOMizzouPreviewMizzou 50, SEMO 0Stats
Lamar vs. Texas A&MLamarTexas A&MPreviewTAMU 62, Lamar 3Stats
Arkansas St. vs. GeorgiaArk. StateUGAPreviewUGA 55, ASU 0Stats
Chattanooga vs. TennesseeUTCTennesseePreviewTennessee 45, UTC 0Stats
SE Louisiana vs. Ole MissSE LouisianaOle MissPreviewOle Miss 40, SELA 29Stats
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