CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Beware of the giant killers
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CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Beware of the giant killers

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South Carolina Georgia Football

South Carolina running back Rico Dowdle is expected to return to action Saturday vs. Appalachian State after recovering from an injury.

COLUMBIA -- In a year of tough games, the Gamecocks don't get a reprieve, even with a Group of Five team coming to Williams-Brice Saturday.

The Gamecocks (4-5, 3-4 SEC) host the giant killer of college football in Appalachian State (7 p.m./ESPN2), needing a win to keep realistic chances of a bowl alive.

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Before things get kicked off Saturday, here are five things to watch for on Senior Night.

Handling tempo

Appalachian State doesn't like to wait. The Mountaineers are one of the fastest teams the Gamecocks will play this season, averaging just under 72 plays per game, 80 over their last three.

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They do a lot of presnap motion to fool a defense and use the tempo to get players out of position. How the Gamecocks will handle the motion and tempo will determine how well the defense plays Saturday night.

Will depth at tight end and receiver be there?

So it looks like Shi Smith (hamstring) is questionable, Nick Muse (ACL) is out along with Josh Vann (hand). That means three of the team's five leading receivers are either out or doubtful against the Mountaineers.

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That puts a lot of pressure on Bryan Edwards to carry the passing game. South Carolina will need guys like Chavis Dawkins and freshmen Xavier Legette and Trae Kenion to step up if they want to be efficient throwing the ball.

What will the running back rotation look like?

Honestly, the Gamecocks can't catch a break at this spot this year. Just as Rico Dowdle is expected to run, Tavien Feaster is out with a groin injury. Adding Dowdle back to the rotation would settle things down, but now the Gamecocks are still searching the second and third backs on the field.

Want to get a whole lot more from

Mon Denson's been that guy, but he struggled some and is dealing with a bang-up after last week. But Deshaun Fenwick and Kevin Harris have been productive in their limited roles this year.

It'll be interesting to see which guys the Gamecocks want to run out there after Dowdle, and if Dowdle is back to 100% and in the form he was before the injury.

Generating a pass rush

It's no secret when the Gamecocks pressure the quarterback, they usually win. This week is a little tougher with a mobile quarterback taking snaps for App State in Zac Thomas, who's thrown for 1,566 yards rushed for another 303 with 18 combined touchdowns.

Getting back there and constricting lanes will be imperative to try and squash an App State offense averaging almost 40 points per game this season.

Can the offense move the ball consistently?

This has been the biggest question for the Gamecocks this year. They still haven't scored over 30 points against a non-FCS opponent and are averaging 21.7 points in eight games against opponents not named Charleston Southern.

They've struggled to put up consistent performances against good competition, but those inconsistencies can't happen against a good Group of Five team like App State.

They'll need to put up points and do it early to get the Mountaineers off their game a little bit and prevent this from turning into a shootout.

Collyn Taylor reports for, the affiliate devoted to USC athletics.


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