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Opponent Q&A: South Carolina

What to expect from the South Carolina Gamecocks.

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Texas A&M Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Ahead of the Kentucky Wildcats hosting South Carolina, we got a chance to speak with Kody Timmers of Garnet and Black Attack about the Gamecocks, what to expect tonight, and a prediction.

Here’s what Timmers had to say about tonight’s SEC East Clash:

1. Talk about South Carolina’s start and if it’s measured up to some of the lofty preseason hype the Gamecocks received.

I think the results have been a mixed bag so far, although if you pull back and look at them objectively, they weren’t entirely unexpected. Crushing Coastal Carolina was great and frankly not something South Carolina often does to its cupcakes, but we knew that ultimately didn’t mean much.

Then Georgia happened, and while fans weren’t necessarily upset that we lost, they were definitely upset with HOW we lost -- any hope of an upset evaporated quickly with a series of self-inflicted mistakes that just can’t happen in those games. Of course, Georgia is the second-best team in the SEC and one of the best teams in all of college football, so judging the Gamecocks too harshly by that loss would be as foolish as anointing them worldbeaters after Coastal.

To that end, I think the Vanderbilt game is a pretty solid display of what this team actually is: The Gamecocks are good enough to beat the teams they should (and even do so handily), but they’re also somewhat error-prone and capable of losing to a team that’s able to capitalize on those mistakes.

2. What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this Gamecocks team?

Even with the loss of OrTre Smith to injury, the wide receiver corps is a deep and diverse collection of talent. Deebo Samuel is a Swiss Army knife, Bryan Edwards is the big body possession guy, and Shi Smith is the speedster who torches defenders deep.

On the other side of the ball, the defensive line has established itself as the strength of the defense, although it hurts to not have DJ Wonnum (also injured) against a rushing attack like Kentucky’s.

As for weaknesses, the running game needs to prove it can turn in consistent, reliable production. South Carolina has some capable backs, but none of them have really shown game-breaking talent, and that unit as a whole can be very boom-or-bust (it was boom against Vanderbilt, but again, consistency is the issue -- what will they do this week?).

The linebacking corps and the secondary are works in progress that have shown some flashes, but I’d be kidding if I said I wasn’t concerned about Benny Snell running roughshod. A total lack of run defense has been South Carolina’s undoing these past four years, and I’m just not sure if this personnel will be up to snuff.

3. Is this the best team Will Muschamp has had in Columbia?

I’d say so. If nothing else, this is certainly the most complete team Muschamp has had. Obviously, 2016 was a Ground Zero type of rebuilding year, and last season exceeded expectations -- especially with so many young players in the mix.

Now, with more of his recruits continuing to cycle into the program and the young guys growing into more seasoned veterans, this team is equipped to take another step forward. I think the removal of Kurt Roper as offensive coordinator really can’t be overlooked as well, since it was addition by subtraction.

Muschamp has been (rightfully) tabbed as a defensive coach who can’t field a competent offense to save his life, and while many of us didn’t understand his decision to hire Roper again, he at least made the right call by moving on quickly.

Bryan McClendon is a first-time offensive coordinator and no doubt still has a lot to learn on the job, but it finally feels like things are more stable and cohesive on that side of the ball. Defense has never been a problem with Muschamp -- including at South Carolina -- and we’ve seen some encouraging signs from the offense so far this year.

4. Who are South Carolina’s best players on offense and defense?

Quarterback Jake Bentley is an obvious choice here, as are the previously mentioned Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards, and Shi Smith. Rico Dowdle usually gets the start at running back, but Ty’Son Williams is a guy to keep an eye on.

Defensively, Javon Kinlaw is an absolute beast who terrorized a pretty good quarterback in Kyle Shurmur last week, and Rashad Fenton is the grizzled ballhawk in the secondary.

There’s also Jaycee Horn, who hasn’t come up in broadcasts much, but that’s because he’s been blanketing his receivers. Bryson Allen-Williams is the lone veteran in the linebacking corps, so you’ll probably hear from him a bit as well.

5. Prediction?

Man, this is a tough one. I think these teams are pretty evenly-matched, and the recent tendency in this series is for things to be close late in the game. Because I’m sick of the streak, I’ll be optimistic here and call for a 28-25 South Carolina win, but it really could go either way -- especially since the Gamecocks typically don’t play well in Lexington.

These teams employ very different approaches, but they’re both tough and physical. To borrow Derek Mason’s terminology, I absolutely expect a “street fight” regardless of result.

Thanks again to Kobi for taking part in this. Be sure to check out their portion of the Q&A talking about Kentucky entering tonight.