It's not your usual tough SEC opponent but this week will still provide the Gamecocks a bit of a challenge as in-state school Coastal Carolina makes its way from Conway to Columbia this Saturday for a historic matchup.
This will be the first time the Gamecocks and Chanticleers will meet on the gridiron and Coastal Carolina brings with them a high-powered offense capable of putting up a lot of yards and points.
The star of the show is running back Lorenzo Taliaferro. This 6'2", 230-pound running back has rushed for 1,466 yards and scored 23 rushing touchdowns. He's averaging 6.7 yards per carry and has set nearly every single season rushing record at Coastal Carolina this year. Behind Taliaferro, the Chanticleers have scored a total of 44 rushing touchdowns and average 283.9 yards per game on the ground.
But the running game isn't the only strong point of Coastal's offense. Alex Ross leads the passing game at quarterback, averaging 228.2 yards passing per game and thrown for 2,282 yards through the air. He's thrown 17 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He's also the third leading rusher on the team with 365 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns. He's got a few talented receivers in former Gamecock DeMario Bennett and Matt Hazel. Between the two, they have scored 10 receiving touchdowns this year and average right at 125 yards receiving.
Moving over to defense, you find a tackling machine in linebacker Quinn Backus. Backus has racked up 108 tackles this year and is over 30 tackles ahead of the next leading tackler. He's also the leader in interceptions with three for Coastal. The leader in sacks is Colton Blackburn and Roderick Holder, who both have three on the year.
Steve Spurrier has talked about how this is a well-coached team and a team that's had a lot of success this season. The Gamecocks are hoping to continue the nation's longest winning streak at home and will certainly need to come out focused and ready to take down their in-state foe.
Here's a look at this week's This, That and The Other.
This game should end up being an offensive showing from both teams. With South Carolina, clearly the advantage will be their speed and ability over Coastal Carolina. It will be interesting to see what the Coast defense can do to slow down players like Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd at wide receiver or if they can cover Busta Anderson or Jerell Adams. South Carolina is expected to be without Mike Davis at running back, who is nursing an injury. In his place will be Shon Carson, who just last week ran for over 100 yards against the SEC's top defense in the Florida Gators. Coastal's defense may not be able to hang against South Carolina's offense.
The goal for Coastal will be to try and score as many points as possible. It's kind of been there motto this season and they've done it well. They've averaged 45.5 points per game and outscored everyone this season. Behind Taliaferro and their offense, don't be surprised if they put up some touchdowns on the Gamecocks defense. They've got some nice talent and will do what they can to make this a game.
But don't expect them to be able to hang for long. The Gamecocks offense has the clear advantage here and should be able to put up a high number this Saturday against Coastal.
That the Gamecocks will be without a few key players is not a big deal in this weekend's game. On defense, Kelcy Quarles and Brison Williams will both sit out this weekend's game with injuries. Quarles is suffering from a concussion while Williams has a forearm injury. Both players have been a big part of this defense, especially Quarles. In their spots will be Phillip Dukes and Kadetrix Marcus. Both players have plenty of playing experience with Marcus starting all but two games this season for the Gamecocks.
Offense will likely see Mike Davis sit out this weekend. Shon Carson was announced as the starter and Mike was held out of practice a few days to rest from his "assorted" injuries. The Gamecocks will get back running back Brandon Wilds, who has sat out the last several games with an elbow injury. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wilds end up carrying the ball a good bit this Saturday so he can get back in game shape as the season winds down against the Clemson Tigers and a future bowl game.
You certainly want a full squad healthy each week but if the Gamecocks need a few players to sit out this week and rest up, it won't be such a bad thing.
The other aspect of this game is the potential for Connor Shaw to win his 25th game as the Gamecocks starting quarterback. Shaw has been such a large piece of the Gamecocks emergence as one of college football's top programs. He has stabilized a position under Steve Spurrier that didn't seem likely as Spurrier went through quarterback after quarterback until Connor Shaw came to campus.
Shaw is a no-nonsense kind of player who just does the right things on and off the field. He's the unquestioned leader who gets the job done. His abilities won't wow the scouts but the way he plays the game just seems to be the right way.
If South Carolina wins, I hope there's a big ovation for Connor Shaw. He deserves it.
I don't think anyone is expecting the Gamecocks to fall this weekend to Coastal. Clearly the talent level is better on the Gamecocks side. Still, Coastal has some quality players and will do whatever they can to come home with a win against a Top 10 team.
This will be an opportunity for South Carolina to get a look at an offense that is similar but not exactly like the Clemson Tiger team they will face next weekend. Hopefully the Gamecocks will use this as a chance to focus and prepare and give an opportunity to some younger players to get some in-game action.
The main thing is for South Carolina to pick up a win, stay injury-free and live to fight their orange clad arch-rival from the upstate. It's almost rivalry week.
But first, Coastal Carolina.