USC Gamecocks Football

South Carolina-Chattanooga prediction: How early will the young guys play?

We’ll start with the easy part — South Carolina is going to beat Chattanooga this Saturday barring something close to an act of God.

The how will be by far the most interesting part.

In its past two FCS games, Will Muschamp’s squad has messed around a little. The 2016 contest featured Western Carolina cutting the lead to 10 in the fourth quarter. Last year’s game was 14-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The Gamecocks are favored this year by 30 1/2 points.

South Carolina’s only game against a non-Power 5 team this season produced a large-scale blowout, with 49 points against Coastal Carolina. Replicating that could matter in terms of one important factor: seeing freshmen.

Since USC has four games left, it can now go as deep as it wants with backup players with little worry of burning redshirts. That means perhaps a chance to see Dakereon Joyner or Deshaun Fenwick. Will Muschamp has already said he plans to play Josh Belk, who has two more games before losing his redshirt.

The Mocs bring in a modestly good Southern Conference team at 6-4. They held tough with solid Furman, Mercer and Wofford teams and are built around defense.

Chattanooga is allowing 18.2 points per game and fewer than 5 yards per play. The defense averages 2.8 sacks a game, but South Carolina’s pass protection has been solid this year.

On the other side, quarterback Nick Tiano and tailbacks Tyrell Price and Alex Trotter lead a not-great run game, and Tiano has been modestly good with a short passing game. South Carolina’s defense struggled against the run last week, but this should be much easier.

South Carolina should roll, even with a stout FCS defense ahead of it. The only question will be, is it time for Joyner?

The pick: South Carolina 41, Chattanooga 10