2024 Alabama Football Early Opponent Preview, Game 6: South Carolina

BamaCentral takes a long first look at each of the Crimson Tide's upcoming opponents this season with South Carolina's first trip to Tuscaloosa in 15 years previewed next.
Oct 28, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Nyck Harbor (8) celebrates a play against Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2023; College Station, Texas, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Nyck Harbor (8) celebrates a play against Texas A&M Aggies during the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports / Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

With the addition of Texas an Oklahoma to the SEC snd elimination of divisions in the Southeastern conference, South Carolina forever gets the distinct honor of being the last SEC East team to beat Alabama in the regular season.

In front of a packed house at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks upset Alabama in 2010. The Crimson Tide made the trip back to Columbia in 2019, but South Carolina hasn't played inside Bryant-Denny Stadium since 2009. That changes this season when Shane Beamer's Gamecocks roll into Tuscaloosa for Game 6.

Beamer took South Carolina to bowl games in each of his first two seasons as head coach before a disappointing 5-7 finish last season. The Gamecocks got off to a 2-6 start before rallying down the final stretch of the season. Beamer isn't necessarily on the hot seat heading into 2024, but he can't afford to get off to another poor start with a challenging SEC slate ahead.

Offense

South Carolina's offense was pass-reliant in 2023 with Spencer Rattler at quarterback and first-rounder Xavier Legette at receiver. Both players are gone now, so offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains will be working with a new QB in his second year with the Gamecocks.

Beamer named redshirt freshman LaNorris Sellers the starter after spring football. Sellers appeared on three games for South Carolina last season with just four total pass attempts, but two touchdowns against Furman.

Not only did the Gamecocks not have an individual 1000-yard rusher last season, but the offense barely crossed 1,000 yards total rushing as a team. Leading rusher Mario Anderson transferred to Memphis, but Beamer added two running backs out of the portal in North Texas' Oscar Adaway III and Arkansas' Raheim Sanders. The former Arkansas back missed time with injury last season, but 1443 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022.

Returner Nyck Harbor (12 catches for 195 yards) and transfers Ahmari Huggins-Bruce (Louisville) and Jared Brown (Coastal Carolina) will look to pick up the production gap left behind by Legette. With a lot of new faces to work into the offense at the skill positions, South Carolina does bring back a lot of experience along the offensive line. All five starters up front have at least one start under their belt with the Gamecocks. The O-line will need to show improvement after allowing 41 sacks a season ago.

Defense

Defensive coordinator Clayton White has been with Beamer all three seasons in Columbia so far, but has never had a defense finish higher than 41st in the country. They have really struggled the past two seasons finishing 89th in 2022 and 90th in 2023, allowing nearly 400 yards per game last season.

South Carolina obviously needs to improve on those numbers if it wants to have more success in 2024. The defense is headlined by all-SEC linebacker Debo Williams, who led the Gamecocks with 113 tackles a year ago.

The Gamecocks have three talented returners leading in the secondary with sophomore Jalon Kilgore, who earned freshman all-American honors with 76 tackles and an interception last season in 10 starts, junior Nick Emmanwori and redshirt senior O'Donnell Fortune.

Junior defensive tackle T.J. Sanders led South Carolina with 4.5 sacks last season and looks to build on that breakout season in his redshirt junior campaign alongside redshirt senior Tonka Hemingway.

Schedule

South Carolina faces Alabama in the middle of a brutal three-game stretch for the Gamecocks against three straight projected top-25 teams starting with Ole Miss at home followed by road games at Alabama and Oklahoma.

For Alabama, the schedule will be a little lighter at this point with a matchup at Vanderbilt the week before. However, the Crimson Tide does have a big road game at Tennessee after facing South Carolina, so Alabama could get caught looking ahead. Both the Crimson Tide and Gamecocks will have already had one of their two bye weeks for the season ahead of this matchup in September.

Outlook

Alabama will likely by double-digit home favorites over South Carolina for this mid-October matchup. Both teams should be settled into the season by this point, but the Gamecocks have a lot more questions surrounding their team than the Crimson Tide. Jalen Milroe will be returning as starting quarterback for Alabama, and South Carolina will either be breaking in a redshirt freshman or transfer at the position.

Beamer has done a good job trying to turn around the South Carolina program over the last three years, but Alabama still has a much deeper and more talented roster.

South Carolina only has one win in Tuscaloosa all time (2004), and I don't see that changing this season.

The Game

Date: Oct. 12

Time: 11 a.m. CT

TV: TBD

Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium

Series history: Alabama leads, 11-4

Last meeting: Alabama beat South Carolina 47-23 in Columbia in 2019. Tua Tagovailoa threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns.

The Team

Coach: Shane Beamer, fourth season, 20-18 record

Offensive coordinator: Dowell Loggains

Defensive coordinator: Clayton White

2023 record: 5-7 (3-5 SEC)

2023 rankings: Total offense (83rd), Total defense (90th)

Returning Starters

11 (four on offense, seven on defense)

Players to Watch

RB Raheim Sanders, WR Nyck Harbor, LB Debo Williams, DT Tonka Hemingway, DB Nick Emmanwori, DB Jalon Kilgore

Top Newcomer:

Arkansas transfer running back Raheim Sanders will bring a new dynamic to the South Carolina offense if he can stay healthy. His career with the Razorbacks was hampered by injuries, but he has 2,230 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns in his career.

Biggest Question

Will Sellers be able to settle into the starting quarterback job, or will Beamer have to turn to Auburn transfer Robbie Ashford or Pitt transfer Davis Beville?

The School

Location: Columbia, South Carolina

Founded: 1801

Enrollment: 53,455

Nickname: Gamecocks

Colors: Garnet, black and white

Mascot: Sir Big Spur

The Program

Last time beat Alabama: 2010

Last time won SEC: Never

Last time won SEC East: 2010

National championships: None

Playoff Appearances: None

Conference championships: 1 (1969 in ACC)

Bowl record: 10-15

Last season missed bowl: 2023

Heisman trophies: 1 (George Rogers- 1980)

2024 NFL Draft:

  • WR Xavier Leggette (Round 1, Pick 32- Carolina Panthers)
  • QB Spencer Rattler (Round 5, Pick 150- New Orleans Saints)
  • CB Marcellas Dial (Round 6, Pick 180- New England Patriots)
  • OL Nick Gargiulo (Round 7, Pick 256- Denver Broncos)

Last four recruiting class rankings: No. 22 (2024), No. 16 (2023), No. 24 (2022), No. 80 (2021)

The Schedule

Aug. 31: Old Dominion
Sept. 7: at Kentucky
Sept. 14: LSU
Sept. 21: Akron
Oct. 5: Ole Miss
Oct. 12: at Alabama
Oct. 19: at Oklahoma
Nov. 2: Texas A&M
Nov. 9: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 16: Missouri
Nov. 23: Wofford
Nov. 30: at Clemson


Published
Katie Windham

KATIE WINDHAM

Katie Windham is the assistant editor for BamaCentral, primarily covering football, basketball gymnastics and softball. She is a two-time graduate of the University of Alabama and has covered a variety of Crimson Tide athletics since 2019 for outlets like The Tuscaloosa News, The Crimson White and the Associated Press before joining BamaCentral full time in 2021. Windham has covered College Football Playoff games, the Women's College World Series, NCAA March Madness, SEC Tournaments and championships in multiple sports.