The Daily Gamecock

Preview: South Carolina looking to stop run game, bounce back against Auburn

The South Carolina Gamecocks (5-5, 2-5 SEC) will host the Auburn Tigers (6-4, 3-3 SEC) this Saturday for their fourth home night-game of the season.

Both teams are coming off losses from the previous week. The Tigers will have to compete without their previous starting quarterback, Bo Nix, who suffered a broken ankle in the second half against Mississippi State.

Sophomore quarterback T.J. Finley is expected to start in his place.

Before transferring to Auburn, Finley played at LSU and dominated against South Carolina, completing 17-of-21 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing for a touchdown in a 52-24 win last season.

"(Finley's) tall in the pocket, stands strong in the pocket, but he can move around in the pocket, he can get out of the pocket," senior defensive end Kingsley Enagbare said at Tuesday's press conference. "From what I've seen, I played against him last year, he likes to stay in the pocket a little bit more and try to make the throw."

Heading into Saturday, it's important to note Auburn's offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will make his return to Columbia. Last season, he was South Carolina's offensive coordinator and later stepped in as interim head coach following the firing of Will Muschamp. 

In Bobo's first season with the Tigers the offense has shown signs of improvement from a year ago, averaging 31.6 points-per-game and 432.7 total yards. 

When asked about what to expect from Bobo's offensive scheme, Enagbare said he remembers going up against "pound-the-ball football" in practices last season. 

Without Nix, the Tigers will continue to rely on their running back tandem of sophomore Tank Bigsby and freshman Jarquez Hunter. In 10 games, the two have combined to rush for 1,332 yards and 12 touchdowns, making it a priority for South Carolina's defense to step up. 

"They're gonna try to run the ball over 20-30 times. (Bobo's) gonna try to play hard-nose football," Enagbare said. "Our goal is to put them in third-and-long and passing situations — put them in situations they don't want to be in."

Even with a new quarterback under center, ESPN college football analyst Jordan Rodgers, who talked to Bobo this week, doesn't think there will be a big difference in the game plan. 

"I don't think the game plan changes a ton because I think Mike Bobo's actually done a really good job of adjusting this plan as the time went on," Rodgers said on McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning. "I think they maybe even accelerate (their offense) a little bit more to fit T.J. Finley, to make him comfortable, to get the noise out of his face."

Despite falling short of a comeback win last week, the Gamecocks know all of their goals are still attainable, including reaching a bowl game for the first time since 2018.

"We take it as a challenge, because we want a bowl game," junior defensive lineman Zacch Pickens said at Tuesday's press conference. "Whatever we gonna do, we gonna try our best to get that bowl game."

South Carolina and Auburn will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday on ESPN.