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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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Texas A&M pitcher Ryan Prager (18) delivers a pitch during Texas A&M’s game against Kentucky at the NCAA Men’s College World Series at in Omaha, Nebraska on Monday, June 17, 2024. Prager went for 6.2 innings, allowing two hits and zero runs. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
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No Clowney, no problem: Carolina poses road threat

Texas A&M and South Carolina have never before faced each other on the gridiron. That won’t be the case for long however, as the Aggies and Gamecocks rocket toward each other on a collision course set to culminate in a Thursday night matchup that could make or break either team’s season out of the gate.
The SEC announced in May that the two schools will be permanent cross-division rivals, and their inaugural contest on August 28 will serve as the de-facto kickoff to the entire college football season. To add fuel to the fire, the winner will take home a trophy depicting James Butler Bonham, the famous Alamo war hero who also attended USC. If the game wasn’t significant enough, both teams will also be responsible for christening college football’s newest stage — the SEC Network.
The No. 9 Gamecocks will mark the fourth top-25 team in four years A&M will face to open its conference slate. The first three, however, came to Kyle Field. The Aggies make their first ever trip to Williams-Brice Stadium, where South Carolina holds a nation-leading 18-game winning streak dating back to 2011. Though going into hostile territory to start the season may not be the preference of most coaches, A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said his focus is more on the Aggies and their approach than anything else.
“It doesn’t really matter—not to me,” Sumlin said. “Whether it’s a top-10 opponent, an FCS opponent—to me preparation is preparation. The way we do things, we’re worried about us, and we try to focus on us more than we focus on the opponent.”
Defense
Despite being ranked in the top 10, the Gamecocks suffered significant blows to their depth chart in the offseason. Most notable is the loss of defensive end Jadaveon Clowney, who was selected No. 1 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. However, Clowney is not the only loss along the defensive line. South Carolina also lost end Chaz Sutton — who registered 8.5 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks in 2013 — and tackle Kelcy Quarles, who led the Gamecocks with 9.5 sacks last year and was a unanimous first team All-SEC selection.
Despite the losses, the A&M coaching staff respects a defense that gave up just 20.3 points per game in 2013.
“They play extremely hard,” said Jake Spavital, Texas A&M offensive coordinator. “They don’t do too much defensively, but they line up, they play man, and they play as hard as they can. You’ve got to give them credit on how hard they play.”
Offense
Offensively, South Carolina must replace the winningest quarterback in its history in Connor Shaw, who compiled a record of 27-5 and never lost at home. Shaw’s protection of the football was key for the Gamecocks in 2013, as he threw for 2,447 yards and 24 touchdowns with just one interception.
Senior Dylan Thompson replaces Shaw as quarterback, who went 3-0 as a starter when Shaw missed games due to injury. In his role as a backup, Thompson, passed for 1,827 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. His marquee performance came in 2012 on the road against rival Clemson, when he went 23-for-41 with 310 yards and three touchdowns en route to a 27-17 victory.
“They’re going to be good at what they do, and that’s never going to change,” Sumlin said. “Offensively I don’t look for them to drop off at all.”
Much like the Aggies, Carolina will lean on a veteran offensive line in 2014. All five Gamecock anchors have started multiple games, and the position still projects as one of USC’s strengths.
The most proven threat USC returns is running back Mike Davis, who rushed for 1,183 yards with 11 touchdowns in 2013, earning second team All-SEC honors as a sophomore.
“Mike Davis is an exceptional running back,” Sumlin said. “I think he’s proven that he can run with power for a shorter guy, but he’s got some strength and he’s a wire-to-wire guy — a homerun threat at any time.”
Defensive coordinator Mark Snyder would give Davis even loftier praise, calling him and Georgia running back Todd Gurley the two best running backs in the country.
“He’s kind of the total package,” Snyder said. “He’s Trey [Williams] and Tra [Carson] combined.”
Kickoff between A&M and USC is Thursday at 5 p.m. on the SEC Network.

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