The South Carolina Gamecocks will kick off the 2014 season on Thursday night by welcoming the Texas A&M Aggies to town to kick off the SEC schedule in style. This Top-25 matchup will help set the tone for the SEC this season and help give us a better picture of what each of these teams will look like after major transitions during the offseason. For the Gamecocks, the key to defending their home turf could come down to the health of running back Mike Davis.
Davis returns in 2014 as one of the top backs in the SEC after recording 1,183 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. But injuries down the stretch seemed to slow the talented back as he faded in 2013. Through the first nine games of the season, Davis eclipsed 100 yards rushing seven times, highlighted by a Herculean 167-yard, three touchdown effort to fend off the upset-minded UCF Knights. But over the final four games, Davis missed one contest entirely and averaged just 42 yards in the other three contests with one touchdown.
This fall, Davis once again showed some injury issues, starting camp with hamstring issues. Once he overcame those, Davis suffered rib injury in the last week which has caused him to miss some practice and had head coach Steve Spurrier questioning if he would be ready to go for this season opener. Whether it was simple gamesmanship (as a boastful Davis on Twitter would lead us to believe) or genuine concern, a healthy Davis in the backfield is key to the Gamecock offensive attack in this game.
Texas A&M was atrocious against the run in 2013, giving up an SEC-worst 222.3 yards per game on the ground last season. Add in the loss of several starters and key backups this offseason due to injury and dismissal, and the Aggies look primed for a physical running game to take advantage of them. With the punishing Davis at full strength leading the charge, that’s exactly the offensive attack that South Carolina brings to the table.
When the game kicks off on Thursday, you can be sure that all eyes will be on Mike Davis to see just how healthy he is. If he can carry the offense at 100 percent, South Carolina has the type punishing running game that can control a contest, especially when going up against a suspect run defense like Texas A&M.