For South Carolina and Texas A&M, it’ll be their first meeting since the Aggies joined the SEC. Both teams have a lot of talent on offense and defense they had to replace, but it seems that the Gamecocks, due to home advantage and overall talent, enter this game and the season and in better shape, shown through the preseason rankings, putting them at #9 opposed to the #21 of their opponents.
A quarterback transition is always difficult, and it should go a bit easier for South Carolina, who base their offense on more than just the decision making of the passer. Steve Spurrier has a strong running game with a great offensive line to count on, and at quarterback he doesn’t have to go very young in order to replace Connor Shaw, with Dylan Thompson having experience of starting for the Gamecocks over the last couple of seasons.
For Texas A&M, Kenny Hill, a Sophomore and a four-star recruit out of Texas, showcasing just how big of an advantage the last few years have given the Aggies when it comes to recruiting in state, will be starting. However, his spot isn’t locked, with Kyle Allen, a five-star import from Arizona and a freshman, is waiting for his chance. Both of them, at least from what we know, aren’t the kind of quarterbacks who turn nothing into touchdowns like Johnny Manziel, who will be difficult to get over.
Kevin Sumlin isn’t the only one who has a star player to forget about. Jadeveon Clowney made South Carolina one of the best defensive teams in the nation during his three years in Columbia, with the Gamecocks completing three consecutive 11-2 seasons. Now that Clowney is gone, teams won’t be stacking the offensive line as densely as before, and South Carolina might have problems on defense against an offensive formation they haven’t seen a lot of in recent years.
Texas A&M were terrible defensively in 2013, ranked 76th in the nation. Despite the potential, they lost three key players in Stansbury, Golden, and Claiborne who were arrested and kicked off the team for different violations. The big improvements that were expected from returning so many players are now gone, and they have freshman to rely on defensively once again.
Opening games, especially with College teams, could be quite surprising because of the often misleading expectations preseason rankings create. However, when it comes to overcoming loss of talent from last season, South Carolina seem to be in a much better position to overcome its own compared to the Aggies.