South Carolina is 8-4. Like the Irish, second year head coach Shane Beamer’s Gamecocks started their season 1-2. On opening day they defeated Georgia State (35-14), and then lost to two pretty good football teams, Arkansas (44-30) and No. 1 Georgia (48-7).
Since then the Gamecocks have gone 7-2 and own wins over Charlotte (56-20), South Carolina State (50-10) No. 13 Kentucky (24-14) , Texas A&M (30-24) and Vanderbilt (38-27). they suffered losses to Missouri (23-10) and at Florida (38-6) before finishing off their regular season with an impressive flourish.
On November 19, No. 5 Tennessee came to town and SC ran to a 63-38 upset, scoring TDs on 9 of 11 drives. A week later they defeated Clemson on the road in a rivalry game 31-30.
South Carolina is led by Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler. On the year, Rattler is a 66.6% passer and has thrown 16 TD passes and 11 interceptions. Much of his production came in the last two games. In those contests he has averaged a shade under 400 yards passing and threw eight TD passes and two interceptions.
Rattler is not much of a runner as evidenced by him being sacked 28 times, the 80th worst mark in the country. He does however move well in the pocket and is able to extend plays. It is also worth noting that SC has given up 90 tackles for loss, ranking them 116th worst overall.
The South Carolina offense is mostly pass based. They are 99th in rushing yards per game at 123.3, but 42nd in passing at 257.8 per game. Three key components of the Gamecock offense have entered the transfer portal. They include RB/TE Jaheim Bell who was the Gamecocks short yardage specialist and was second on the team in rushing and third in receptions., Leading rusher MarShawn Lloyd and TE Austin Strogner. SC will also be without their offensive coordinator, Marcus Satterfield. Satterfield recently accepted the OC position at Nebraska.
The Gamecock’s top receiving threat is 6-1, 207-pound Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr. Wells has 63 catches good for 898 yards and 6 TDs. His longest reception of the year went for 72 yards.
The Gamecock offense has been outstanding in the red zone, they have converted 36 of 51 red-zone chance into TDs. A rate that ranks 21st in the nation. They average 31.7 points per game , which ranks 45th nationally.
SC has one of the worst turnover marks in the nation with 12 fumbles lost and 13 interceptions.
Defensively the Gamecocks have struggled, particularly against the run. South Carolina gives up 4.85 yards per rushing attempt, ranking them 112th. Several teams have had big days running on the Gamecocks, among them are Florida (374), Arkansas (295) and Clemson (237). The Irish held Clemson to just 90 yards back on November 5.
SC is decent against the pass and are allowing just 199.5 yards per game (27th) and have one of the best marks nationally (6th) in completion percentage allowed at .535. Like the offense, the defense will be missing a key component in NB Cam Smith who had an interception and five passes broken up on the year. Smith has opted out of the game, and will prepare for the NFL draft. Also heading to the NFL will be DT Zach Pickens, who was tied for fifth on the team in tackles.
SC has sacked the quarterback just 18 times on the season and they have 54 tackles for loss. Both numbers rank among the worst in the nation at 118th and 114th respectively.
Special teams is a strong point for the Gamecocks and ND’s special teams coach Brian Mason may have met his match in Pete Lembo. Lembo, who was the head coach at Ball State from 2011-2015, now heads special teams for SC. This season the Gamecocks are right behind the Irish nationally in blocked kicks with six and rank in the top 20 nationally in kickoff coverage, punt returns and kick returns.
South Carolina is a program that has had similar peak and valleys as Notre Dame has experienced in 2022, but as evidenced by their season ending wins over Tennessee and Clemson, they seem to be a team on the rise. That said overall their offense has been erratic and they are prone to turnovers. They are vulnerable to the ground game defensively and have not been able to bring consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback. Notre Dame’s strength running the football should match up well against a weak run defense.
Spencer Rattler is the wild card, he has an NFL strong arm and is plenty experienced. He does not run much but he moves well in the pocket. If he is on his game, the Irish may have their work cut out for them in keeping points down.
Notre Dame is a 2.5 point favorite and the over under is 52.5
The Fighting Irish Preview Pick: ND 31 South Carolina 28