Texas A&M vs. South Carolina: Key Matchups to Watch
The Texas A&M football team will play the South Carolina Gamecocks in a clash between two top-25 teams on Thursday, August 28. The game will be decided by which teams win the most individual matchups on the field.
Football is a team game that requires all 11 men on the field to do their job for the team to have success. You can have 10 people do their job correctly, but if one offensive lineman misses a blocking assignment, the play can be screwed up.
So while football is played by 11 per side on the field at one time, the game can be won or lost by the individual battles that take place all across the field.
This is a look at the individual battles that will determine the outcome of Texas A&M's game against South Carolina.
South Carolina LT Corey Robinson vs. Texas A&M WDE Daeshon Hall
The Texas A&M defense had a very limited pass rush from their front four in 2013. With 6'6", 260-pound sophomore defensive end Daeshon Hall returning, that is expected to change in 2014.
The Aggies will need to get a consistent pass rush on South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson when the two teams meet on August 28. Hall will be lined up against South Carolina left tackle Corey Robinson for most of the night.
The 6'8", 345-pound senior is projected to be one of the top-10 offensive tackles in the 2015 NFL Draft. Robinson has been able to use his massive size to overpower the defensive linemen he faces in the SEC.
Hall will have to use his quickness to get around Robinson in order to be disruptive in the Gamecock backfield.
If Hall can consistently win this battle, then the Aggies will be able to limit the South Carolina offense. If Robinson wins the battle, then Thompson will be free to pick apart the Aggies secondary, and the game will resemble a lot of games for the Aggies defense in 2013.
Texas A&M Safeties vs. South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson
It is no secret that under head coach Steve Spurrier the South Carolina Gamecocks prefer to run the ball and play defense. They will try to grind out a win over the Aggies by running Mike Davis between the tackles and throwing the ball over the top of the secondary on play-action passes.
It will be up to the Aggies' starting safeties Howard Matthews and Armani Watts to correctly diagnose the play-action fakes and stay back to defend against the pass. The Aggies secondary struggled against the pass in 2013 allowing 253.5 yards passing per game.
A lot of those yards came on busted coverages by the Aggies safeties. They simply need to play better in 2014 if they want to win games.
Thompson played in 10 games and passed for 784 yards in 2013. He has proven that he can lead the South Carolina team to wins in the SEC.
If the Texas A&M safeties can correctly read their defensive keys and intercept Thompson, they will exponentially increase the odds of the Aggies getting a win on the road.
South Carolina RB vs. Jordan Mastrogiovanni
South Carolina junior running back Mike Davis is still questionable to play against A&M.
If he is out, then Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds will carry the ball for the Gamecocks.
It does not matter who is lining up at running back for South Carolina, Texas A&M sophomore middle linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni will need to stuff them at the line of scrimmage.
Mastrogiovanni struggled against the run in 2013 when he was thrust into action as a true freshman. As a sophomore, he needs to be a rock in the center of the Aggies defense and prevent teams from gashing them up the middle.
Mastrogiovanni had 26 tackles with a tackle for loss and an interception in 2013.
He struggled to consistently make plays against the run and too often was blocked out of plays. The Aggies need him to be solid in the middle against South Carolina and stuff the run all night. If Mastrogiovanni is not effective in the middle on Thursday night, the Aggies will not win the game.
Texas A&M QB Kenny Hill vs. South Carolina CBs
Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill will make his first career start on Thursday, August 28 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Hill will be trying to complete passes against Gamecock cornerbacks Jamari Smith and Rico McWilliams.
McWilliams is a third-year sophomore who started two games and recorded one tackle in 2013. Smith played running back in 2013.
This contest will match up inexperienced cornerbacks against an inexperienced quarterback who is throwing to inexperienced wide receivers. Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil will be making their first career starts in Columbia.
If Hill is able to move the ball effectively through the air and take advantage of the Gamecocks' inexperience in the secondary then the Aggies will be able to keep the game close and possibly win it.
If he turns the ball over the South Carolina's young cornerbacks get some confidence, the game could become a blowout loss for the Aggies.