What USC needs to do to win vs the Citadel

It’s the week before Rivalry Week, which means top teams are getting to play a directional school from the FCS in order to boost win totals and fill up the smaller school’s budget for the year (Alabama has Charleston Southern while Georgia and Florida State scheduled tough with Georgia Southern and Chattanooga).

South Carolina followed its other SEC counterparts, slotting FCS The Citadel. Not many fans would have thought at the beginning of the season this would be a big game, but it is.

The Gamecocks are fighting for respect, falling gut-wrenchingly short in three straight games. Now they get a chance to try to win five games (and play spoiler next weekend, but we’ll get there later).

So this weekend is a big one.

Like I’ve said all week, this Bulldog team proposes some mismatches for the Gamecocks, especially in the running game.

It won’t be a cakewalk for Shawn Elliott and Co., but here’s three keys to how the Gamecocks can win the dang game this weekend.

Run the dang ball.

Run it and control clock. Seems easy enough right? Keep the Citadel offense, which has consistently been its moneymaker all year, off the field. If Brandon Wilds can get 4 yards for 40 seconds, it’ll be hard for the Bulldogs to score (because their offense isn’t on the field). It will also take the pressure off of Perry Orth, who won’t be tasked then to score every time he’s on the field.

Stop the dang run.

The triple option is effective only when the defense doesn’t know where the ball is going, allowing runners to bust big runs. This means the defense will have to successfully read keys and wrap up tackles. Both things have been a tall task for the defense. It starts up front with the defensive line, which will be tasked with trying to contain the ball handler. If they can do that and force passing situations, then it gets the Bulldogs out of their element, which is a good thing for the defense.

Get off the dang field on defense.

Third downs have not been kind to the defense the past two games, allowing Florida and Tennessee to go a combined 20-for-37. It’ll be easier for the Gamecocks to get off the field if it’s third-and-long, instead of the third-and-1 or 2 yards that have become a mainstay the past two weeks. It starts with stopping the run on first and second down (see point No. 2). The defense has been good about forcing third downs, it just hasn’t been able to force the fourth downs. If the defense can get the Citadel, which is 50 percent on third downs this season, then that could be a recipe for success.

My dang Prediction

It’ll be close for the first few drives because it’s hard to really anticipate how fast the triple option moves. Once the defense makes its adjustments, then it will start imposing its will. Offensively, Perry Orth will have a quiet day and let Wilds run free. There should be a big play or two throughout the game for the Gamecocks. At the end of the day, the athletes in garnet are much better than those on the Citadel sideline.

Score: South Carolina 27, The Citadel 10