David Cloninger

USC vs. UMass: 5 gameday storylines, 5 key numbers

South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley gmelendez@thestate.com

1. THE GOLDEN CHILD

Will Jake Bentley play? That’s been the topic of discussion all week and it appears that South Carolina’s true freshman quarterback will be given a shot to kick-start the offense. The book on Bentley is he’s exceedingly football-smart, having grown up in one of the state’s first families of football, and his arm is already next-level ready. But can USC’s offense be fixed by simply changing the guy under center?

2. ROCK FIGHT

Each team’s offense has, to be kind, struggled (although UMass scored 35 points in a loss to Mississippi State, which manhandled USC). The Minutemen give up nearly 470 yards per game while USC allows nearly 396. Which unit wins the day?

3. I GOT IT

UMass should, if previous history is an indicator, have to punt a lot. Who catches the ball? Hayden Hurst, the Gamecocks’ offensive MVP this year, couldn’t do it, so is Chris Lammons back on top? Is it just letting the ball bounce and letting the other team down it?

4. 12

Elliott Fry needs a dozen points to become USC’s career scorer. He could get that Saturday. In what’s shaping up to be a lousy season for the team, a career mark could add some glow.

5. EL CID

The Gamecocks cannot lose this game. It would cost them their season (which may already be lost) but also any future support for the rest of their home games. I give USC a great chance to pull an upset next week. A strong home crowd would help that. That won’t happen if UMass wins … much like The Citadel did last year.

FIVE NUMBERS

123/126: Rank of each team in total offense, with Massachusetts ranked first. There are 128 teams in Division I football.

4: Number of games in the final six that South Carolina must win to become bowl-eligible.

14.5: Average margin of defeat of UMass to the other two SEC teams on its schedule this year. The Minutemen have lost to Florida and Mississippi State.

1-2: USC’s record over the last three non-conference games.

2: Touchdown passes the Gamecocks have thrown this year, both by Brandon McIlwain.

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