Texas A&M no longer has the-hype train known as Johnny Football, and South Carolina will play it’s first game in the post-Jadaveon Clowney era. However, just because these two stars have left their respective colleges to play on Sunday, that doesn’t mean that the entire sports world won’t be focused on this matchup when the #21 Aggies play the #9 Gamecocks on Thursday night.
With all due respect to Abilene Christian and Georgia State, who will play in the true opening game for college football this season, nothing will get the season started like a Top 25 matchup that symbolizes the beginning of another chase for a National Championship.
The person who might have the most eyes focused on him could be Kenny Hill, a sophomore who will be taking over under center for Johnny Football for the Aggies. The decision to start hill may be a bit of a surprise after the Aggies signed five-star high school recruit Kyle Allen, but Hill has previous experience and he looked better in preseason workouts. Last season Hill threw for 183 yards and a touchdown in four appearances. However, his numbers are going to have to be much more impressive than that if he hopes to follow in the footsteps of the player that led the Aggies with 353 yards and 44 points per game, which was good enough for 8th and 5th in the nation, respectively.
For the Gamecocks, they’ll be hoping that the departure of Clowney won’t cause them to skip a beat at all. They return to the Top 10 in Steve Spurrier’s 10th season as head coach, but there are a lot of pieces that have yet to get any serious playing time on the field. The biggest name on the field could be Darius English, who will take over in place of Clowney on the defensive line.
South Carolina will also be going with a new quarterback in Dylan Thompson. Thompson has a 58.4% completion percentage and has thrown for 783 yards and 4 touchdowns while backing up Connor Shaw for the last three seasons. Now that Shaw has left for the NFL (ironically he’s sitting behind Johnny Manziel on the Brown’s roster), Thompson will be expected to make an immediate impact in a huge game on Thursday evening.
The home-team Gamecocks are currently listed as 11-point favorites over the Aggies in this opening game. South Carolina also has 23/1 odds to win this year’s National Championship, while Texas A&M is listed with a host of other teams at 100/1. Don’t forget to check back with sportspicks.com for handicapper information and insight into this game and the rest of the matchups for the opening weekend of the college football season.
With the new format for the National Championship, there may be even more interest in Thursday’s game. For years a team that lost their opening game after starting the season in the Top 25 was likely to be doomed throughout the rest of the year. However, there is a possibility that even a one-loss team could make their way into the college football playoff tournament and play for a chance at the National Title. However, considering these two teams are in arguably the best division in college football, the SEC, they’ll certainly want to get off on the right foot and make an impression in their first game of the season.