The Call

By Edwin Stanton

OFFENSE
Advantage: Alabama
You know what you are getting with Alabama, but with backup Ryan Hilinski at quarterback for South Carolina, there is just no telling. He looked good last week, but that was against Charleston Southern. UA, with Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy leading the way, gets its first big test of the season.

DEFENSE
Advantage: Alabama
South Carolina is giving up about 220 passing yards a game to Alabama’s 120, so D.J. Wonnum and the Gamecocks will have to put on the pressure. Anfernee Jennings and Alabama (116 rush yards allowed per game) is going up against an offense averaging 300 yards a game.

SPECIAL TEAMS
Advantage: South Carolina
Bryan Edwards is a dangerous punt returner for South Carolina with 66 yards through two games, and Parker White has nailed 3 of 4 field goals with a long of 47. Alabama is working on getting consistency in the punting department.

COACHING
Advantage: Alabama
Will Muschamp is in his fourth season with the Gamecocks with his best season a 9-4 mark in 2017. Losing the starting quarterback won’t make his job easier this season. We might see a small new wrinkle from Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian since this is the SEC opener.

INTANGIBLES
Advantage: South Carolina
Williams-Brice Stadium can be a difficult place to play if things are going right for the Gamecocks. If this were a night game perhaps there would be even more of an advantage. It’s not, but Alabama still has to deal with a strange environment.

PREDICTION
Alabama 35, South Carolina 14
Earlier this week some Alabama players were asked about the 2010 loss to South Carolina. They didn’t remember. They were in grade school when it happened so why would they? That’s the point. What happened in 2010 doesn’t mean diddly-squat today.

Staff predictions

Tommy DiCostanzo
Alabama 41,
South Carolina 13
QB and arguably the Gamecocks’ best player Jake Bentley is out for the season with a broken foot, so coach Will Muschamp turns to true freshman Ryan Hilinski, who will be overmatched by a scary Bama D. The Tide will cover the spread to start SEC play because good teams win, great teams cover.

Tyler Martin
Alabama 45,
South Carolina 7
Alabama will erase the demons of its 2010 visit to Columbia in dominating fashion. A stout defensive effort from the Crimson Tide will overwhelm a freshman Gamecocks quarterback, who is making his first SEC start. Tua and that offense will continue to light opposing defenses on fire in a rout.

Brett Hudson
Alabama 45,
South Carolina 10
Reliving the memories of 2010 will be done mostly in Stephen Garcia’s presence, not by what is done between the lines.

Cecil Hurt
Alabama 33,
South Carolina 16
It’s never easy to figure out South Carolina (for me, anyway). My guess is that there will be a lot of early emotion before Alabama/Tua hits enough big plays in the passing game to pull out a win.

James Ogletree
Alabama 38,
South Carolina 17
I see Alabama’s running game continuing to improve since the offensive line seems to be back close to full health. Tua Tagovailoa will keep rolling and the defense will generate plenty of pressure on South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski. He’s talented, so there may a few big-play opportunities, but this is not Charleston Southern.

Carey Reeder
Alabama 45,
South Carolina 13
South Carolina freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski will be introduced to big time college football against the best defense he has ever seen, which will prove to be too much. However, I expect the Gamecocks to show some fight.

Michael Southern
Alabama 41,
South Carolina 13
The first road test for the Crimson Tide will present a challenge for Alabama’s freshmen linebackers when it comes to communication. Expect a raucous environment early, but Alabama has too many weapons and athletes for South Carolina to stage an upset like in 2010.

Katie Windham
Alabama 49,
South Carolina 10
The Gamecocks rebounded from a tough loss against North Carolina with a 72-10 win last weekend against Charleston Southern. The Alabama defense will be much tougher of a test for true freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski, making just his second career start. Alabama will roll to their 25th straight win over an Eastern division opponent.

Players to watch

ALABAMA

Raekwon Davis
Position: Defensive line
Height: 6-7
Weight: 312
Class: Senior
Key Stat: Second-leading tackler with 12 behind Xavier McKinney (14)
Buzz: Foregoing the NFL draft last season to return for his senior year, Davis had “unfinished business” and was expected to be a leader on the defense this season. He is and has been through the first few games that leader, but everyone is waiting for Davis to bust out one game and get his senior season really started.

Miller Forristall
Position: Tight end
Height: 6-5
Weight: 242
Class: R-Junior
Key Stat: Caught two passes for 33 yards and his first career touchdown in the season opener against Duke
Buzz: Tight end was the biggest question mark for Alabama coming into the 2019 season on offense losing No. 50 overall selection Irv Smith Jr. in last year’s NFL draft. Forristall has offered some solid foundation for the position early in the season. A big frame and soft hands has given quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a valuable mid-distance target down the field.

Jedrick Wills Jr.
Position: Offensive line
Height: 6-5
Weight: 320
Class: Junior
Key Stat: One of only two starters returning on the offensive line; started all 15 games at right tackle
Buzz: Wills has the most important job on the Alabama football team. Protect No. 13’s blindside. Wills has done a great job over the course of his 16 career starts in protecting the quarterback, but with a little more inexperienced offensive line this year, his play will be more important than ever. Wills is more than capable to give some stabilization to the front five.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Bryan Edwards
Position: Wide receiver
Height: 6-3
Weight: 215
Class: Senior
Key Stat: Second-leading receiver for Gamecock’s a year ago with 55 receptions, 846 yards and seven touchdowns
Buzz: After a five-catch, 112-yard and two-touchdown day last week against Charleston Southern, Edwards looks to continue his high-level of play. A big-bodied receiver, Edwards presents a large target and catch area for freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski.

R.J. Roderick
Position: Defensive back
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
Class: Sophomore
Key Stat: Intercepted one pass against Charleston Southern and made seven tackles against North Carolina
Buzz: Roderick is a special defensive player because of the freedom the coaches have playing him at multiple positions. Safety, corner, nickel back, Roderick can play them all, and all at a high level. With as many receiver threats as Alabama has, the sophomore will be asked to do a lot today.

Kevin Harris
Position: Running back
Height: 5-10
Weight: 225
Class: Freshman
Key Stat: Broke out for 147 yards on just six carries last week and scored three touchdowns against Charleston Southern
Buzz: While sitting fourth on the Gamecocks’ depth chart, Harris made the most of his opportunity last week and gave the South Carolina coaches something to think about. He’s behind two seniors and a graduate student, however, with more performances like last week, Harris’ touch count will continue to increase throughout the season.

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