South Carolina went 7-6 last year, but given they finished 27th in the CSD Prime Computer Rankings, they were truly a lot better than that record indicated, with a tough schedule that featured games against two top-three teams in Georgia and Clemson, and a few heartbreaking losses to great Texas A&M and Florida teams. If this team was playing in, say, the ACC Coastal, I think they’d have finished with a much more sturdy record.
Looking on the positive though, 14 starters are back for Will Muschamp’s fourth year in Columbia, but the schedule is even tougher, as the Gamecocks will be faced with the #1 toughest schedule in the nation.
South Carolina returns an incredibly steady hand at the QB spot in Jake Bentley (62%, 27 TDs vs 14 INTs, 8.2 YPA), who could finally break into the top tier of SEC quarterbacks in his fourth year as a starter.
Some interesting talent surrounds Bentley in the skill corps. Rico Dowdle (5.3 YPA) is back at the RB spot. His backup, Mon Denson (5.0) returns as well after the two combined for over 1,100 yards last year. Deebo Samuel is gone, but the #2-4 receivers from last years group are back, including a pair of guys who both averaged 15+ yards per catch and combined for over 1,500 yards in Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith.
The line is unproven, but three guys with significant starting experience return, although I think depth could be an issue, and the Gamecocks may ask a pair of freshmen to step into starting roles in the interior. Despite the loss of Samuel, I think the offense improves.
The front seven looks stacked for what looks like it could be Will Muschamp’s best defense yet with South Carolina. The group is captained by star MLB TJ Burnson (four sacks, 6.5 TFL, leading tackler), but some talented pass rushers return elsewhere, like DT Javon Kinlaw (4.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL) and Dennis “DJ” Wonnum at the buck spot (six sacks, 7.5 TFL in 2017).
Where we run into a few issues is the secondary where the Gamecocks dealt with a ton of injuries last year. Granted, all of the injuries meant that a lot of the guys back this year got playing time they wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere.
A pair of sophomores, Jaycee Horn and RJ Roderick, return after starting significant time last year. Horn particularly showed some potential to me. Jamel Cook, a USC transfer, joins at the safety spot, and while the secondary is a young group for the most part (especially behind the starters) I think it holds up as long as they aren’t ravaged by injuries again. This defense will improve on the whole.
South Carolina faces the toughest schedule in the country this year. A schedule that is so tough that the model, which sees them as a top 25 team, says they are only a 50/50 shot at making a bowl.
The Gamecocks face the #1, #2, and #3 teams this year, not to mention my #8, #11, #16, two other top-40 SEC foes and one of the best G5 teams in the country in projected Sun Belt champion Appalachian State. This could be a year where the Gamecocks are a hell of a lot better than the record indicates.
|Date||Opponent||OPp. rank||Proj. Margin|
|31-Aug||vs. north carolina (charlotte, nc)||62||6.8|
|16-Nov||at texas A&M||11||-8.4|
Average Projected Record: 5.9 wins, 6.1 losses (3.1 wins, 4.9 losses)