Alabama vs. USC Football Preview

University of Alabama

Location: Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Students: 30,232

Head Coach: Nick Saban 4th season as head coach, overall record 38-8

2010 record: 5-0 overall, 2-0 SEC, defeated Florida 31-6 last week

Alabama’s all time record against the Gamecocks: 10-2, with Carolina winning 2 of the last 4.  USC won in 2001 and 2004.

Famous Alabama Alumni: Robert Horry (NBA), Bart Starr (NFL Hall of Fame), Joe Namath (NFL Hall of Fame), George C. Wallace (Racist Governor of Alabama in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, also ran for President 4 times)

Bama offense vs. USC defense: Alabama will bring in the #1 scoring offense in the SEC averaging 37 points a game, with the #3 rushing and passing offense in the SEC. Alabama is lead by their two running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.  Last year Ingram rushed for 246 yards against the Gamecocks on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy.  So far this season Ingram and Richardson have combined for 774 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Alabama is also lead by their senior QB Greg McElroy who has passed for 983 yards and 7 touchdowns this season.  McElroy’s go to receiver is Julio Jones who has racked up 24 catches for 322 yards and 2 receiving TD’s this season.  It is still unclear if Jones will play this weekend, and if he doesn’t then McElroy will look to Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks to step it up.

Bama’s offense can score points quickly and will test the Gamecock defense on many levels.  Coach Johnson has had 2 weeks to prepare the defense for this test, as the Gamecocks are coming off a bye week.  With the lose of Shaq Wilson, the linebacker will be asked to step up in stopping the explosive running duo of Ingram and Richardson.

Carolina’s defense, coming off the Auburn game caused 2 turnovers, but allowed Cam Newton and the offense to run for 334 yards.  If the Gamecocks are going to have any chance of winning this game, they will have to stop the run first, and make McElroy beat them in the air.

Match up to watch: With all the distractions of Gameday and who Lee Corso will pick to win this game, we must not forget that our front 7 must stop Ingram and Richardson for the Gamecocks to have a chance.  The Gamecocks did a great job of stopping Alabama from passing last season, but Ingram had a field day on the ground.  Matthews and Taylor will have to contain on the outside while Ajiboye and Robertson try to get a push against the Bama O-line.  If the linebackers don’t show up this week, Ingram and Richardson will have a career game against the USC defense.  Dickerson, Paulk and Straughter have showed signs of being productive this season, but without a great game from them, USC will not be able to slow the Bama running game down.

Gamecock Offense vs. Bama Defense: Alabama lost 9 starters on Defense from a year ago, including a couple names you might remember Mt. Cody, Arenas and Rolando McClain.  Well they say Alabama doesn’t rebuild, they reload, and I would have to agree.  So far this season, Alabama’s defense is ranked as the top scoring defense in the SEC, and 3rd best in total defense, only giving up 292 yards per game.

Carolina’s offense has been productive all season, averaging 30 points a game and 390 yards.  USC will look to control the game with Lattimore on the ground, and go to Jeffrey and Gurley when needed.  The longer Carolina can keep Bama’s offense off the field the better.   Two weeks ago against Auburn, the Gamecocks were able to pass for 305 yards but only rush for 79.  Carolina will need to balance it out against Alabama, and not go away from the run game if they do get down early.

Players to watch on Bama’s defense: Safety Mark Barron, linebacker Donta Hightower and defensive end Marcell Dareus.  Barron who leading the Tide in tackles and sacks will play up on the line of scrimmage to help stop the run a lot of times. At 6 foot 2 inches and 210 pounds, the gamecocks will need to make sure he is blocked at all times. Hightower who missed last year games with an injury, has had a great season so far, he is currently 2nd on the team in tackles with 26.  Defensive end Dareus is now back from his NCAA suspension, and looking to resume where he left off last year.  Named MVP of the national championship game last year, he is by far the best pass rusher on the Crimson Tide defense.

Match up to watch:  Lattimore and the offensive line vs. Bama’s front 7.  Lattimore only had 33 yards rushing on 11 carries against Auburn, and will need to have many more carries and yards for the gamecocks to control the Bama defense.  Alabama’s defense so far this season is allowing 101 yards of rushing offense per game.  Bama’s defense has not allowed a single back to rush for more then 100 yards so far this season, or all of last season.  This will be a huge task for Lattimore to gain positive yards against a very aggressive front 7.  Offensive line play will be key in keeping USC’s offense on the move.

What might happen: USC will come out to a home crowd that can smell an upset, and will play at a high level.  Just like in the Arkansas/ Bama game a few weeks back, USC will move the ball early before Bama makes adjustments.  Alabama’s running game will slowly beat down USC’s defense before taking the lead and never looking back.  USC will be able to score a touchdown or two on Bama’s defense, but in the end it will not be enough.  Just like every Clemson loss, USC will find a way to come out of this game with a moral victory.  Alabama is the defending national champions and the top ranked team in the country by the way.

Prediction:  Alabama 27 USC 17