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Trench War/Fare: South Carolina

Come for the line talk, stay for the food

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas A&M Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Last week we provided midseason grades for Texas A&M on their idle week. The Aggies went into the bye with two straight losses following disappointing performances in the second half. As we enter the second half of the season, Texas A&M has a real chance to get right with a victory over South Carolina. If the Aggies win, they still have a relative chance at a decent conclusion to 2023. Should Texas A&M fall to the Gamecocks, it would spell disaster for the rest of the season. Let’s talk about what the Aggies need to do at home this weekend to get back in the win column.

Offensive Line

NCAA Football: Alabama at Texas A&M Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the offensive line performance has been abysmal over the past two weeks. Texas A&M allowed one of the highest pressure rates in the country to Alabama and Tennessee. Max Johnson constantly found himself on the ground on dropbacks. Additionally, the Aggies failed to gain any traction in the run game.

The good news? Bama and Tennessee both have very talented front sevens. The Tide and the Vols rank 2nd and 3rd in the SEC in team sacks. Both defenses also rank in the Top 25 in rushing defense. Meanwhile, South Carolina represents a big step down in competition defensively.

The Gamecocks rank near the bottom of the SEC in both sacks(12 out of 14 SEC teams) and rushing defense(12 out of 14 SEC teams). I’m not expecting a sudden offensive explosion. from Texas A&M but they should fare better than they did against the Vols and Tide. South Carolina’s leading sack-getter is sophomore T.J. Sanders but from film, a lot of the sacks I’ve seen the Gamecocks secure have been more from coverage than beating teams at the LOS.

Texas A&M doesn’t need to be great on the offensive line in this one, they just need to be better than they have been and give Max a chance to get the ball to receivers who are hopefully healthier after a week off. Given SC’s struggles to generate a pass rush, I think they can accomplish that.

Defensive Line

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

When Spencer Rattler has time in the pocket, he has proven capable of getting the ball to his receivers - especially the uber-talented Xavier Legette. Unfortunately for Rattler, the Gamecock offensive line has faced struggles similar to those of the Aggies.

Last week against Mizzou, Rattler was sacked five times. Compounding the issue was the fact that the Tigers were able to get pressure up the middle. Ask any quarterback where they’d like to face pressure from and they will tell you the edges. Any time a team can get pressure quickly right in the face of the QB, it’s a disaster. And so Missouri dominated the contest by never giving Spencer Rattler a chance to breathe. The Texas A&M defensive line and linebacker revelation Edgerrin Cooper are likely salivating at the prospect of this contest. In particular, look for Walter Nolen (if healthy) to have a fantastic game.

In the run game, Texas A&M struggled against Tennessee allowing over 200 yards. I expect a return to form in that realm against South Carolina. Especially with a rushing attack that ranks dead last in the conference in rushing yards. The Gamecocks don’t employ the notoriously spread-out receivers like Tennessee meaning it should be easier for perimeter defenders to rally to run support against South Carolina. Mario Anderson is a talented back but given the struggles of the Gamecocks in the trenches, I don’t expect him to get much traction.

In terms of the matchup, this certainly feels like a get-right game for the Aggies. Will they execute? That remains to be seen.


Spicy Chopped Cheese from Burger Bodega in Houston, TX
Jay Arnold-Good Bull Hunting

In the world of sandwiches, there is certainly no shortage of incredible options. I thought about going with one of the many chicken options but given how the wings went last year, I decided to try an alternative.

Hailing from New York City, the chopped cheese is essentially a cheeseburger with all the toppings shopped together and served on a hero roll. At Burger Bodega here in Houston, they serve up a dynamite version of the sandwich. I opt for the spicy version when I stop in - it has a delightful amount of kick and hopefully, that’s exactly what we’re gonna do to ‘em Ags.

What’s on your menu when the Aggies take on South Carolina?