Know the Foe: South Carolina
A look at South Carolina, which faces USF on Dec. 29 in the Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field
Wins: at Vanderbilt 13-10, East Carolina 20-15, Massachusetts 34-28, Tennessee 24-21, Missouri 31-21, Western Carolina 44-31
Losses: at Mississippi State 27-14, at Kentucky 17-10, Texas A&M 24-13, Georgia 28-14, at Florida 20-7, at Clemson 56-7
Coach: Will Muschamp (first season at USC, 6-6; fifth season overall, 34-27)
The breakdown: Considering the Gamecocks' youth, the abysmal end to the Steve Spurrier era (3-9 in 2015), and an offense that ranks 117th nationally (336.4 ypg), a bowl berth might qualify as over-achievement. Nearly 68 percent of USC's 113-player Birmingham Bowl roster is made up of freshmen (52) and sophomores (24). Thirteen true freshmen have played including projected starting QB Jake Bentley (93-of-47, 1,030 yards, six TDs, two INTs), who is nursing a bone bruise in his knee but is expected to start against USF. Since Bentley's redshirt was removed midway through the season, the 'Cocks are 4-2 and are scoring roughly 10 more points per game. They're also averaging 183.7 rushing yards in that span after averaging 92.3 in their first six contests. That said, USC's run game was abysmal in late-season losses to Florida and Clemson, and currently ranks 107th nationally. Defensively, the 'Cocks are as grizzled as their offense is green, with every projected starter an upperclassmen. The Gamecocks' 14 interceptions in the regular season ranked second in the SEC behind Georgia, and they led the league in turnover margin (plus-0.83). Still, this is a unit that surrendered 622 yards to Clemson, leading many to speculate about the lingering effect of that humiliation. Watch for 6-foot-6 senior DE Darius English (nine sacks).
Odds and ends: In the teams' only previous meeting (2004 in Columbia), the Gamecocks rolled to a 34-3 victory in Gamecock QB Syvelle Newton's first career start. Troy Williamson had a school single-game record 210 receiving yards (and three TDs) for USC. ... South Carolina has started the same five offensive linemen in each of its last eight games. ... Bentley was one of two Division I-A players this season (Kansas S Mike Lee was the other) to bypass their senior high school seasons to enroll in college early. ... Sophomore backup LG Christian Pellage (Nature Coast) is the only bay area product on the USC roster.
Nate Godwin's take: "I think they're a team that prides itself on physicality. They're big, they're tough, they're physical and they like to run the ball. So I think if we want to come out and start fast, we've definitely got to stop the run."