Can South Carolina hold back the Tide?
Alabama has three new starters on its defensive line this season, but South Carolina offensive line coach Shawn Elliott can’t tell the difference. “When you win championships and you build a strong program, you are going to get the best talent in the country, and that’s what they’ve done. I don’t feel like they’ve dropped off at all,” Elliott said. That could be bad news for the Gamecocks, who had a hard time blocking Auburn. The return of tackle Hutch Eckerson should help the South Carolina offensive line, but will it be enough?
Another shot at Ingram
The Gamecocks might not want another shot after Mark Ingram rushed for 246 yards against them last year, but they will get it nonetheless. Ingram went on to win the Heisman Trophy last year and hasn’t slowed down since. He is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns despite missing the first two games of the season because of a knee injury. And, oh by the way, Ingram is not Alabama’s leading rusher. That’s Trent Richardson, who is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.
More for Lattimore
Speaking of running backs, South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore is due for a bounce-back game after gaining 33 yards on 14 carries against Auburn. Expect the Gamecocks to try to establish Lattimore early to set up more opportunities for Alshon Jeffery and company to get open down the field. However, it’s not going to be easy. Alabama has not allowed an opposing player to rush for 100 or more yards since Oct. 13, 2007, a streak of 39 consecutive games. That’s the longest streak in the nation.
Home field advantage?
South Carolina is 11-1 in its past 12 home games. The loss came last year when then-No. 1 Florida beat them. This is the fourth consecutive year in which the defending national champion has played in Williams-Brice Stadium. So, is this the year the Gamecocks win one of those games? “Our fans are good and loud. They love football as much as any team in the country,” coach Steve Spurrier said, “and, hopefully, we will give them something to yell about Saturday.” It won’t be easy. Alabama has won 19 consecutive games overall and 29 regular-season games in a row.
Quarterback du jour
Stephen Garcia’s grasp on the starting job seems to be as firm as ever. After pulling Garcia in the fourth quarter of a loss to Auburn, Spurrier has said repeatedly in the past two weeks that Garcia is the starter and will be given every chance to succeed. Spurrier also said this week that backup Connor Shaw is not quite ready to be an SEC starter. Garcia will have to follow Spurrier’s instructions to protect himself and the ball today, but, if he does that, he’ll likely start and finish this game.