This game could have a bigger meaning for South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier and running back Marcus Lattimore.
Coach Spurrier will pick up his 200th win as a collegiate head coach with a victory Saturday night, becoming the 71st coach in college history to record this feat. Spurrier said himself that he's not focused on this goal but it's still quite the accomplishment to win game number 200.
Marcus Lattimore is working to establish his name on the record books at South Carolina and could do so with a touchdown or more Saturday night. Lattimore needs one touchdown to become the school's record holder in career touchdowns. He's also close to breaking the all-time rushing touchdown record of 31 currently held by former Gamecock running back George Rogers. Lattimore currently has 30 rushing touchdowns.
About the game itself, Coach Spurrier has said this week that UAB may have what it takes to beat South Carolina. Head coach Garrick McGee spent time at Arkansas, including the past two seasons as offensive coordinator, and the Razorbacks have had the Gamecocks' number in recent years.
Will UAB's offense be able to mimic the Razorbacks' success against the Gamecocks? Will South Carolina be able to repeat last week's impressive offensive performance?
With that in mind, let's take a look at this week's What To Watch For as the Gamecocks get ready to do battle with the UAB Blazers.
1. Who will be the starting quarterback for South CarolinaThe Gamecocks have had the same question for two weeks now. Who will start at quarterback? Connor Shaw's shoulder injury has limited the junior quarterback in practice and caused him to miss the East Carolina game. Luckily for South Carolina, Dylan Thompson performed extremely well and the Gamecocks did not need to use their starter at all in that contest.
Based on how things have gone thus far in practice this week, it appears that Dylan Thompson will likely earn another start for the Gamecocks. Coach Spurrier said that Shaw will sit out if he's unable to throw the football downfield without any pain. Shaw practiced some Wednesday night but it seems like the best option would be to let him rest for another weekend and come back ready to go against Missouri on September 22nd.
2. The effort level of the young defensive playersBrad Lawing spoke at practice Tuesday night about the effort level of the young players against East Carolina. Basically, Lawing said that they "gave in at the end and embarrassed their hometowns and their families." I think you can tell that Lawing was disappointed for their performance on Saturday.
South Carolina is expected to handle the UAB Blazers fairly easily. The opportunity for more playing time for these younger players will likely be there on Saturday. Anytime a group of players gets called out like that, it's interesting to see how they respond. I would expect these younger players to come out with a fire and intensity to show Coach Lawing and the rest of the team that they're ready to play.
3. Will the turnovers continue for the Gamecock defense?The Gamecocks have forced five interceptions in two games so far this season. They are currently tied in third place in the NCAA in interceptions, two behind SMU, who currently has seven. The Gamecocks have also recovered a fumble this season. It's obvious that South Carolina has worked hard this offseason to force turnovers. Can it continue this weekend?
UAB had a total of four turnovers in the season-opener against Troy. Two of those came at a crucial point in the game that helped Troy come-from-behind to beat the Blazers. The Gamecocks have some players that have caused some havoc this season. Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney have been able to bring pressure on a consistent basis and linebacker Shaq Wilson has been able to snag two interceptions for the team-lead. Jimmy Legree turned an interception into a touchdown last week while safeties D.J. Swearinger and Brison Williams have also got in on turnovers for the Gamecocks. All of these players, plus others, have the ability to create turnovers against their opponent. The size and speed of the Gamecocks should give them an advantage, and based on their first week game, UAB could be in for more turnovers this weekend against South Carolina.
4. Will Lattimore and the running backs have room to run?If you look at the starting front four on the defensive line for the Blazers, you notice that they are considerably smaller than the Gamecocks offensive line. The average weight for UAB is 267.5 pounds compared to the Gamecocks offensive line starters, who weigh 297 pounds. Generally, the size difference should allow the Gamecocks the ability to get push on the defensive line and create holes for the running backs.
The Gamecocks, however, had a tough time last week against a smaller East Carolina defense and failed to create any running room for Lattimore and the running backs. This week, the Gamecocks have worked on some different schemes and are trying to get their lineman to work harder on making their blocks. Coach Spurrier said the other day that some linemen never even touch a guy on some plays. It's hard to create holes for your running backs if you aren't out there blocking someone.
I think this will be a great opportunity for South Carolina to create more balance on offense and utilize the running backs. Some of the offensive linemen have started to show marked improvement and UAB will likely focus on the passing game and the running game, unlike ECU who was mainly concerned with stopping the run. The focus on the blocking schemes and improvement for the offensive line should be enough for Lattimore, Miles and the rest of the Gamecocks running backs have a big day on Saturday.
South Carolina and UAB will meet this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on FSN with Bob Rathbun on the play-by-play with Tim Couch doing analysis and Elizabeth Moreau on the sideline.