USC Gamecocks Football

USC football game-by-game scouting report

Brandon Wilds (22) and the Gamecocks play at Georgia this season.
Brandon Wilds (22) and the Gamecocks play at Georgia this season.

NORTH CAROLINA

Sept. 3, Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

2014 record

6-7 (4-4 ACC)

Top Three Players

Quarterback Marquise Williams led the Tar Heels in passing and rushing last year. The 6-foot-2 senior completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,068 yards and rushed for another 788 yards. He accounted for 34 total touchdowns.

Wide receiver Ryan Switzer caught 61 passes for 757 yards and led North Carolina in punt returns with 37 returns for 172 yards. The 5-10, 185-pound junior was an All-American after a freshman season in which he returned five punts for touchdowns.

Cornerback Brian Walker led the team with three interceptions last year and returned them for a total of 149 yards. He also led the Tar Heels in passes defended with eight, had 38 tackles and a forced fumble.

Prediction

South Carolina 40, North Carolina 30

KENTUCKY

Sept. 12, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

5-7 (2-6 SEC)

Top Three Players

Wide receiver Ryan Timmons was the Wildcats’ leading receiver last year with 45 catches for 536 yards and will need to be a big target this year no matter who is playing quarterback.

Defensive tackle Melvin Lewis will be expected to take up the slack from the loss of defensive ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. Dupree and Smith are both pros now, so it’s not going to be easy.

Safety Alex Stamps is the top player on the back end of Kentucky’s defense. He led the team with four interceptions last year and could play cornerback in a pinch.

Prediction

South Carolina 21, Kentucky 18

GEORGIA

Sept. 19, Sanford Stadium, Athens, Ga.

2014 record

10-3 (6-2 SEC)

Top Three Players

Running back Nick Chubb looked like one of the top three players in the nation last year, rushing for 1,547 yards as a freshman. Only Herschel Walker has rushed for more in a single season in Athens, and Chubb didn’t take over the starting job until Todd Gurley was suspended.

Linebacker Jordan Jenkins has had five sacks in each of the last three seasons and led the team with 24 tackles for loss last year. Teamed with outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, Jenkins could give the Bulldogs a vicious pass rush.

Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has been limited most of the last two seasons because of knee injuries. Three years ago, he looked like one of the best receivers in the SEC, and the Bulldogs need him in the passing game this year.

Prediction

Georgia 45, South Carolina 30

UCF

Sept. 26, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

9-4 (7-1 American Athletic Conference)

Three Top Players

Defensive end Thomas Niles is one of four starters returning on defense, and he’s a good building block to have. Niles, a senior, led the Knights with 49 tackles and 7.5 sacks last year when UCF finished No. 5 in the nation in total defense (298.5 ypg allowed).

Quarterback Justin Holman replaced Blake Bortles last year and improved throughout the season. He finished the season 223-of-392 for 2,952 yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Running back William Stanback is a two-time all-conference player who was limited by injuries last year. He finished the season with 697 yards and 10 touchdowns on 189 carries.

Prediction

South Carolina 32, UCF 14

MISSOURI

Oct. 3, Memorial Stadium, Columbia, Mo.

2014 record

11-3 (7-1 SEC)

Top Three Players

Quarterback Maty Mauk should be more consistent as a junior, and he needs to be. He completed 53.3 percent of his passes and threw 13 interceptions last year. He slimmed down in the offseason and said he felt better this spring.

Defensive tackle Harold Brantley is a rising star in the SEC, and he’ll have to fill the shoes of two stars who are gone – defensive ends Shane Ray and Markus Golden. Brantley had five sacks last year.

Running back Russell Hansbrough won’t have to share time with Marcus Murphy this year. Given Missouri’s lack of experienced wide receivers, he’s likely to carry a large load for the Tigers’ offense.

Prediction

Missouri 27, South Carolina 20

LSU

Oct. 10, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

8-5 (4-4 SEC)

Top Three Players

Running back Leonard Fournette can hold his own with either of the league’s other two top backs – Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Alabama’s Derrick Henry. Fournette gained 1,034 yards on 187 carries last year, with 289 of those on 30 carries in the final two games.

Offensive tackles Jerald Hawkins and Vidal Alexander will be two of the biggest keys to the Tigers’ success this year. Hawkins will move from right tackle to left tackle to replace last year’s star – La’el Collins – and Alexander will move from guard to right tackle.

Cornerback Tre’Davious White is the latest in a long line of star LSU defensive backs. White had two interceptions last year to tie for the team lead and is the leader of a Tigers defense that will be in transition this year.

Prediction

LSU 21, South Carolina 20

VANDERBILT

Oct. 17, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

3-9 (0-8 SEC)

Top Three Players

Running back Ralph Webb was the only bright spot of the 2014 season for the Commodores. He was a lightly recruited player in Gainesville, Fla., who gained 912 yards as a redshirt freshman.

Linebacker Stephen Weatherly was one of the few Commodores better off under the new Derek Mason regime. Moved to outside linebacker in the new defensive scheme, Weatherly had 4.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.

Tight end Steven Scheu was a second-team All-SEC pick after leading the team in catches (39) and receiving yards (525) last year, but he was injured this spring and might not be ready until midseason.

Prediction

South Carolina 45, Vanderbilt 17

TEXAS A&M

Oct. 31, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas

2014 record

8-5 (3-5 SEC)

Top Three Players

Quarterback Kyle Allen threw for 1,322 yards and 16 touchdowns after taking over the starting job with five games left in the season. Allen will start over five-star freshman recruit Kyler Murray.

Defensive end Myles Garrett is almost as physically imposing as Jadeveon Clowney and has been more productive so far. Garrett set the SEC freshman sack record with 11.5 last year and drew tons of holding calls that kept him from getting more.

Wide receiver Josh Reynolds should get lots of opportunities after catching a school record 13 touchdown passes last year. He will be complemented by the speedy Speedy Noil, who caught 46 passes as a true freshman.

Prediction:

Texas A&M 35, South Carolina 28

TENNESSEE

Nov. 7, Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

2014 record

7-6 (3-5 SEC)

Top Three Players

Quarterback Josh Dobbs is an aerospace engineering major and is shaping up to be a pretty good SEC quarterback. A dual threat player, he threw for 1,204 yards after replacing Justin Worley as the starter last year.

Defensive end Derek Barnett set the school records for sacks (10) and tackles-for-loss (20.5) by a true freshman last season. He missed spring practice because of a shoulder injury, but is expected to rebound in plenty of time for the fall.

Linebacker Curt Maggitt led the Volunteers in sacks last year with 11. He will line up as a defensive end at times, and along with Barnett and probably several high-profile incoming freshmen, give Tennessee a ferocious front.

Prediction

South Carolina 24, Tennessee 14

FLORIDA

Nov. 14, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

7-5 (4-4 SEC)

Top Three Players

Running back Kelvin Taylor is one of the only, if not the only, bright spot on offense. The son of former Gator Fred Taylor, who played for Steve Spurrier at Florida, Kelvin had 197 rushing yards against Georgia and fits well into the offense of new head coach Jim McElwain.

Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves is widely considered the best cover corner in the league. The junior has been All-SEC each year and has six career interceptions despite limited opportunities.

Defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard can play tackle or end. He had 8.5 tackles for loss and 12 quarterback hurries last year.

Prediction

South Carolina 29, Florida 12

THE CITADEL

Nov. 21, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

5-7 (3-4 SoCon)

Top Three Players

Running back Tyler Renew is a former Ben Lippen standout who had 761 yards last year. With last year’s leading rusher, quarterback Aaron Miller, gone, there will be more chances for Renew, a junior.

Linebacker Tevin Floyd led the Bulldogs with 80 tackles last year. He also had 9.5 tackles-for-loss, including 3.5 sacks. The junior from Tallahassee, Fla., leads what could be an improved defense this year.

Defensive lineman Mitchell Jeter inherits the role of chief disrupter on the defense now that Justin Oxendine is gone. Jeter had six sacks, 10.5 tackles-for-loss and three quarterback hurries a year ago.

Prediction

South Carolina 30, The Citadel 7

CLEMSON

Nov. 28, Williams-Brice Stadium

2014 record

10-3 (6-2 ACC)

Top Three Players

Quarterback Deshaun Watson looks like a future star. He threw for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 200 yards on 63 carries while playing in eight games, including five starts, last year. He led the Tigers to a streak-snapping win over the Gamecocks with a torn ACL and expects to be healthy.

Safety Jayron Kearse leads an experienced secondary. The 6-4 junior will be the stalwart of the defensive backfield this year.

Wide receiver Artavis Scott leads a young group of offensive stars that includes running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Mike Williams. Scott had 1,002 all-purpose yards last year and will be a favorite target of Watson.

Prediction

Clemson 38, South Carolina 35

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