South Carolina will face Virginia in the Belk Bowl on December 29. This game could be tough for the Gamecocks as far as receivers go because star receiver Deebo Samuel will sit out the game to focus on his draft stock. I know every Gamecock fan would love to see Samuel play in Bank of America Stadium again, but he was smart to sit this one out and not risk injury. South Carolina has other weapons, but Virginia has some of their own.
South Carolina’s leading receiver is Samuel, who had 882 yards and 11 touchdowns through the air. Losing Samuel will be a hit to the offense because Samuel could be used in basically any situation, including kick returns. The Gamecocks will have junior Bryan Edwards, who has 809 yards and seven touchdowns. Edwards does lead South Carolina in yards per catch with 15.6 yards per catch. South Carolina will also rely more on sophomore Shi Smith, who only has 597 yards and four touchdowns. His numbers may not be big, but his speed makes him a legitimate deep threat who will most likely be the second receiver. South Carolina will also use freshman Josh Vann as a slot receiver. The Gamecocks will have a hard time passing against the Cavaliers, who have the number 13 pass defense in the country and give up only 180 passing yards per
Virginia will rely heavily on senior receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, who currently has 958 yards and six touchdowns. Zaccheaus is well on his way to having his first 1000 yard season after putting up 895 yards last year. The Cavaliers will also rely on junior Hasise Dubois, who is their red zone threat. Dubois has put up a career high 521 yards and five touchdowns this year. Besides Dubois and Zaccheaus, Virginia will use their deep threat, Joe Reed. Reed also has a career high 455 yards and seven touchdowns, but he averages 19 yards per catch. South Carolina will struggle to defend these receivers because they have the 62nd ranked pass defense and allow 230.8 passing yards per game.
The Edge: South Carolina
South Carolina’s secondary has been plagued by injuries and will be extremely thin, but the Gamecocks always seem to step up in Charlotte. I expect Virginia to pass the ball a lot and get a little creative on offense. If Jake Bentley plays the way he’s been playing late in the season, the Gamecock receivers should outperform the Virginia receivers.