This weekend, South Carolina travels to Fayetteville to play a top-20 Arkansas team. We’ll learn a lot about where Shane Beamer’s team is in its second season from the Gamecocks’ first SEC road test. They beat a tough Georgia State team this past Saturday, 35-14, to get off to a strong start.
Gamecocks of South Carolina are ready for their first SEC road test
Despite the comfort in the final result, the garnet and black still have a lot to improve. Week two’s competition will significantly improve, therefore South Carolina will need to make adjustments as well. The only victory away from home for Beamer’s club came against East Carolina in the closing seconds of the game.
The Razorbacks serve as an early litmus test for them in the SEC. Winning on the road is essential to this program’s effort to establish itself as a reliable threat in the SEC. A successful start to conference play against a ranked opponent would be quite impressive.
During Sam Pittman’s brief leadership, Arkansas has seen significant progress. They were the SEC West’s doormat a couple of years ago. They beat a very talented Cincinnati team in their debut in 2022 and opened the season inside the Top 20. K.J. Jefferson is a talented quarterback superstar.
Against the Bearcats, he passed for more than 220 yards and four touchdowns altogether. The junior’s passing skills keep getting better, and when he has the ball in his hands, he ranks among the most dangerous players in the country. For the Gamecocks to stand a chance, he must be contained.
This past Saturday, Raheim Sanders rushed for more than 100 yards. The Razorbacks ran for more than 200 yards as a team. Arkansas is an adaptable defense, but there are some weaknesses that can be exploited. Although the secondary had a difficult week, they did manage to force two turnovers.
The Gamecocks struggled offensively versus Georgia State. Their physique was their biggest problem. The easiest things to identify were issues with the offensive line, but they weren’t the only ones. South Carolina attempted to take advantage of several outside matchups, but their receivers’ blocking was subpar.
Jaheim Bell was the only one who truly broke many tackles, too. The poor line play makes it understandable why this attack struggled to maintain consistency. The defense also started out slowly, but they quickly became effective. They made excellent tackles, and as the game went on, they started to exert more and more dominance over the line of scrimmage.
For Jefferson and the company to be defeated, the defense will have to improve even more. The offense needs to improve its pass protection and create more gaps for the running backs. The first SEC road test might go all day if they aren’t physically capable of handling the challenge.
Although he didn’t have the best protection up front, Spencer Rattler had a good first game for the Gamecocks. His presence and awareness stood out in the pocket. Even as the pocket collapsed around him, he still maintained a cool demeanor. His decision-making was generally sound throughout the entire night, and his arm skill is readily apparent.
His reads and choices should get better as he gets more at ease with the scheme. His inability to take the simple completion on a few occasions when he went overly aggressive was the one flaw in his debut. They made a few poor third-down conversions and one of those choices led to an interception.
Rattler was excellent at gaining yards and throwing when he was moving. A couple of significant plays from Rattler were successful in reaching Jalen Brooks. On Saturday, that relationship might come into play. Cincinnati demonstrated in the first game that it is possible to make significant plays against the Razorbacks.
South Carolina must allow its quarterback some time, but if they do, explosive plays might come. If the Gamecocks want to pass their first SEC road test, they must take advantage of some of those changes. This weekend, Beamer’s squad has a chance to make some noise.
The rest of the conference would take note if Arkansas lost to a team that was ranked and on the road. However, they will need to perform much better. There were many advantages to be gained from the first week. The most noticeable things are the massive special team plays and the strong defensive play.
The Razorbacks, on the other hand, will represent a significant talent and ability upgrade. If the Gamecocks wish to start 2-0, the adage that teams improve the most between weeks one and two must hold true.
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