Five storylines to watch: Alabama
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS FOOTBALL
The Gamecocks are set to welcome their biggest test of the season so far with Alabama coming to Williams-Brice for a 3:30 p.m. kick off Saturday afternoon.
A win would mean another upset over an Alabama team over the last nine years—the last one coming in 2010—but before the two teams take the field, here's five storylines to keep track of entering the game.
Hilinski's coming out party?
Like last week, all eyes offensively will be on the true freshman making his first start against an FBS opponent, and it's a doozy with No. 2 Alabama coming to town in his second-career start.
Hilinski doesn't—and probably won't—need to play a perfect game, but showing the fan base he can compete and hold his own against one of the premier programs nationally could inspire some confidence for the season moving forward.
It'll be interesting to watch and see how he does against a defense which does a really good job trying to confuse quarterbacks.
Teaming up to tackle
Tackling was an issue in the first game against North Carolina and didn't really come back to bite the Gamecocks defensively against an inferior opponent in Charleston Southern.
It's going to play a pretty key role this weekend, because if the Gamecocks don't tackle well then playmakers like Najee Harris, Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle could cause some problems all day.
Mano a mano
In 2010, South Carolina got a big boost from a guy like Alshon Jeffery en route to the upset and Saturday they'll likely need a similar performance from guys like Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. Both guys will need to win their man-to-man matchups against Alabama's talented secondary if they want to put points on the board.
And, on the other side of things, the Gamecock cornerbacks in Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu will need to win their battles with Jeudy and Waddle to try and govern an insanely potent Tide offense.
Speaking of the Alabama offense, keeping Heisman contender Tua Tagovailoa in the pocket is vital if they want to get the defense off the field and keep Alabama's offense on the sideline.
Tagovailoa has made a habit of extending plays with his feet, and those usually result in chunk plays for the Tide. The battle between the Gamecocks' defensive ends and BUCKs and the Tide's tackles will take centerstage with South Carolina needing to keep contain to make sure there aren't any easy scrambling lanes.
There have been a few big recruiting weekends in Will Muschamp's tenure and a few of those times—2017 against Kentucky and 2018 against Georgia come to mind—South Carolina's fallen flat with losses despite electric atmospheres.
The atmosphere Saturday, mixed with about 100 prospects visiting, has all the makings for a good recruiting weekend the Gamecocks need to play well for.
The Gamecocks are set to host a bunch of priority targets over the next three recruiting classes and putting on a good showing—not necessarily a win but a solid performance—could be good to sustain some momentum coming out of this weekend.