No. 2 Alabama (2-0) at South Carolina (1-1)
When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
1. Will the real Gamecocks show up? For that matter, who are the real Gamecocks — the ones that blew a 20-9 lead to a freshman quarterback in a humiliating loss to North Carolina, or the ones who set program records while demolishing Charleston Southern? The first two weeks of the season have produced wildly divergent results for USC and right now it’s difficult to say which one most exemplifies this team’s true nature. Granted, facing No. 2 Alabama might not be the best way to determine it, but a strong showing regardless of result would go a long way.
2. Can Ryan Hilinski rise to the occasion, or will his inexperience show? The spotlight wasn’t too big for him in his first career start, but that was against a middling FCS opponent. The degree of difficulty is being ratcheted up about as much as it possibly can for his second go-around. His ability to make quick reads and get the ball into the hands of South Carolina’s playmakers will be tested by one of the nation’s best defenses.
3. Can South Carolina recreate 2010? The last time Alabama visited Williams-Brice Stadium was also the last time coach Nick Saban lost to an SEC East team. That 35-21 upset remains one of the biggest moments in program history, and comparisons to it are inevitable as the Crimson Tide and Gamecocks prepare to face off again. Of course, no players remain from that game, and Saban and one of his assistants are the only coaches left, but fans remember, and they’ll be fired up at the thought of ruining ‘Bama’s season once more.
Three Alabama players to watch
1. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may have been lost a little luster to Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence in last season’s national championship game, but he’s still a brutally efficient passer and electrifying talent. A strong candidate to go No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Tagovailoa already has seven touchdowns and 563 yards in two games (six quarters) of play this season.
2. Wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, like Tagovailoa, is one of the top talents in the country at his position, a consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner. He led the SEC with 14 touchdown grabs last season and already has four this season, along with a pair of 100-yard games. He is also a likely first-round pick.
3. Defensive lineman Raekwon Davis came into his season year as an AP preseason All-American and, you guessed it, a likely first-round pick come draft time. At 6-foot-7, 312 pounds, he can blow up the middle of an offensive line, and the Gamecocks will have their hands full trying to stop him from creating pressure on Hilinski.