Finishing the 2013 season with an impressive 11-2 record is nothing new for head coach Steve Spurrier and the South Carolina Gamecocks as they will look to repeat the process once again in 2014 — maybe this time with a national title. With some key pieces departing, including the winningest QB in history, Connor Shaw, it will be tough to match what they did in 2013.
With every great football program comes a player departure that shakes up the entire outlook of a season. The Texas A&M Aggies know exactly what that is all about as the famous, and sometimes infamous, Johnny Manziel decided to forego his final two seasons in College Station and head to the NFL. The Aggies look quite different in 2014.
As stated earlier, Connor Shaw has departed and moved on to the next level, leaving senior quarterback Dylan Thompson to pick up the pieces. Thompson has some experience and he has the talent to get the job done — he finished with 783 yards and four touchdowns in limited time last season. Junior Shaq Roland and senior Damiere Byrd will ease the transition of quarterbacks as they both return as starters as well as tight end Rory Anderson. It seems as if South Carolina always has a solid running back and returning star Mike Davis will look to build on his 1,000-plus yard season in 2013 and translate that into a Heisman campaign this year.
Johnny Football was the face of the program, but now that he’s gone, the Aggies will need to find a replacement for the former Heisman winner. Freshman Kyle Allen and sophomore Kenny Hill are battling it out for the starting spot, but it looks like Hill will be the guy relied upon, starting with the first game. Whoever wins the job for good has a lot of talent around him, including a solid running back tandem of Tra Carson and Trey Williams. Losing explosive wide out Mike Evans will definitely hurt the pass game, but Ricky Seals-Jones is expected to be the next big star at the position as a freshman. The offensive line will take a ton of pressure off the pass and run game as four starters return.
Defensively, the Aggies were one of the worst units in the entire nation, making the offense work twice as hard to outscore opponents. In fact, Texas A&M ranked 95th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 32.2 points per game, and 109th in the nation in total defense, allowing an astounding 475.8 yards per game. South Carolina fared much better defensively in 2013, ranking 12th in scoring as well as 19th in total yards allowed per game.
Texas A&M will travel to South Carolina to take on the Gamecocks at 6 p.m. EST on Thursday, Aug. 28. The game will be broadcasted on SEC Network.
PREDICTION: Texas A&M 28, South Carolina 31
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.