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South Carolina’s defense will let you beat yourself

The Gamecocks are allowing 3.9 yards per rush attempt.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp, like Derek Mason, has a reputation as a defensive guru. But that’s not reflected in the Gamecocks’ 2019 defense.

The Gamecocks have played six SEC games. In those games, they’ve surrendered 47, 34, 7, 17, 38, and 41 points, for an average of 30.7 ppg. Some of that has had to do with the competition — obviously, Alabama and Florida are scoring on most people — but the last time out, Tennessee scored 41 points and generated 485 yards of total offense.

The last time that Tennessee scored 41 points on an FBS team, by the way, was in the 2017 season opener against Georgia Tech, and that game went to overtime.

Now, the Gamecocks’ defense is legitimately good against the run. Alabama got 76 yards on 25 rushing attempts; Georgia got 173 yards on 43 attempts. Florida got 155 yards on 29 attempts, but 75 of those came on one play. The Gamecocks do have a couple of good defensive linemen in D.J. Wonnum (8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) and Javon Kinlaw (five sacks.)

The problems have come about in defending the passing game. Georgia threw three interceptions and Kentucky essentially doesn’t have a passing game; but this is a defense that managed to make Jarrett Guarantano and JT Shrout look good last week. If you render yourself one-dimensional, South Carolina’s defense is going to eat you alive; but if you can move the ball through the air, you can score.

Of course, Vanderbilt hasn’t shown any ability this season to move the ball through the air so forget I said anything.