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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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5 things to look for before A&M hosts South Carolina

Photo by FILE

The Aggies and Gamecocks will go head to head on Saturday, Oct. 23 in Kyle Field with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. 

Texas A&M football returns home for a game against SEC foe South Carolina after continuing its recent strong play in a road victory over Missouri.
Here are five things to look for in the matchup on Saturday, Oct. 23.
The 12th Man
A&M’s last home game against Alabama featured the second-largest crowd in the history of Kyle Field. The crowd was deafening from kickoff until the game-winning kick by senior place-kicker Seth Small went through the uprights. 
Sophomore safety Antonio Johnson said the crowd played a major role in the outcome of the game against Alabama.
“The 12th Man came, and they showed out,” Johnson said. “They played a big role on third downs. Just being loud, … just bringing the atmosphere for us, and we needed them. And they came and pulled their weight.”
The crowd should play a similar role in another evening game on Saturday.
An improved offensive line
The maroon and white’s offensive line endured some growing pains after losing four of last year’s starters to graduation with only junior lineman Kenyon Green returning. The Aggies gave up three sacks in three of their first five games of the season, including each of the games started by sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada. 
The line’s play has improved recently, as they have only given one sack in the last two games. In addition to their improved pass blocking, the run blocking is also starting to hit its stride as A&M rushed for over 280 yards last week against Missouri.
Junior running back Isaiah Spiller said the offensive line opened up a number of holes in the running games after their victory over Missouri.
“The O-line did a great job [against Missouri],” Spiller said. “They were blocking. It was just reading it, you know, hitting it, so that’s what I did.”
New quarterback
Senior quarterback Zeb Noland is back in as the starting quarterback for South Carolina after sophomore starter Luke Doty injured his foot in last week’s 21-20 victory over Vanderbilt. Noland led the Gamecocks on their game-winning touchdown drive after entering the game trailing 20-14. 
Saturday will mark the former graduate assistant coach’s fourth start of the season. Noland has thrown for six touchdowns to the tune of a 58 percent completion percentage this season. 
South Carolina head coach Frank Beamer said he expects Noland to be prepared for Saturday’s game against A&M.
“[Noland’s] been getting plenty of reps in practice,” Beamer said. “We work our first and second group on offense and defense equally, so they’ve got plenty of work in practice.”
Forcing turnovers
South Carolina’s 16 turnovers is the most forced in the SEC this season. The next closest team is Alabama with 12 turnovers. The Gamecocks have also shown a tendency to have their turnovers turn into touchdowns with three of their 10 interceptions being returned for a touchdown.
Calazada has shown that he is not immune to turning the ball over with six interceptions thrown this season, so this is something that could play a pivotal role in the outcome of Saturday’s game.
A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said turnovers in general are one of the more integral aspects of winning a football game.
“Turnovers are the key,” Fisher said. “Anybody who says turnovers ain’t the most important thing … whoever says that is crazy, alright? Turnovers are still the most important to [being] able to make big plays.”
Which A&M team will show up?
A&M’s play at home has been very hit or miss this season. With the zenith being its aforementioned victory over Alabama and the nadir being its home loss against Mississippi State just two weeks ago. 
The Aggies have shown they can play with anybody in the NCAA, but have also shown a tendency to play down to their opposition on both sides of the ball. If A&M’s strong play continues, it could be the start of yet another winning streak reminiscent of last year’s eight-game winning streak, or it could be another disappointment if they don’t play up to their potential.

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