Early 2016 schedule outlook: South Carolina
Will Muschamp walked into a favorable schedule in his first season in Columbia, S.C. At least in terms of home games.
South Carolina has seven home games, including visits from potential SEC East favorites Tennessee and Georgia. While they play a slew of projected ranked teams, the Gameocks get most of them at home.
The Gamecocks open at Vanderbilt, which used strong defense to win its first two SEC games since 2013 last season and almost upset Florida. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur should show improvement as a sophomore.
The two SEC West opponents, Mississippi State and Texas A&M, are in varying stages of rebuilding or uncertainty, especially at quarterback. And the Bulldogs may not be ready in Week 2.
The Georgia game could be a season turner. The home team has controlled the rivalry in recent years. And given the defensive backgrounds of first-year coaches Muschamp and Kirby Smart, there will be no shortage of pregame storylines.
The Gamecocks’ early road games will test the winner of an expected four-man quarterback competition, including four-star recruit Brandon Mcllwain.
How the Gamecocks quarterback and the rest of the offense performs early will keep the spotlight on Kurt Roper, the team’s new co-offensive coordinator.
The Gamecocks could develop momentum entering the meat of the schedule against SEC East teams, or open up questions about Muschamp’s hiring and reuniting with Roper. But the Gamecocks at least have an anchor on defense returning, three-time leading tackler LB Skai Moore.
Home games (7): East Carolina (Sept. 17), Texas A&M (Oct. 1), Georgia (Oct. 8), UMass (Oct. 22), Tennessee (Oct. 29), Missouri (Nov. 5), Western Carolina (Nov. 19).
Road games (5): Vanderbilt (Sept. 1), Mississippi State (Sept. 10), Kentucky (Sept. 24), Florida (Nov. 12), Clemson (Nov. 26).
Longest home stretch: 5 games (Texas A&M, Georgia, bye week, UMass, Tennessee, Missouri).
Longest road stretch: 2 games (at Vanderbilt, at Mississippi State).
2015 ranked teams (final regular season): No. 1 Clemson, No. 19 Florida.
2016 ranked teams: (early projections): No. 1 Clemson, No. 10 Tennessee, No. 17 Georgia, No. 21 Texas A&M, No. 25 Florida.
Potential trap games: Missouri comes between a home game against Tennessee, the expected SEC East favorite, and a road game at Florida, which will likely be a circus atmosphere when Will Muschamp returns as a head coach for the first time. Texas A&M is the first SEC home game on Oct. 1 after three straight SEC road games to open the season, and before Georgia comes to Williams-Brice Stadium.
Toughest SEC games: Georgia, Tennessee, at Florida.
|1||at West Vanderbilt||Vanderbilt Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.|
|2||at Mississippi State||Davis Wade Stadium, Starkville, Miss.|
|3||East Carolina||Williams-Brice Stadium|
|4||at Kentucky||Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky.|
|5||Texas A&M||Williams-Brice Stadium|
|6||Georgia||at Williams-Brice Stadium|
|11||at Florida||Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla.|
|12||Western Carolina||Williams-Brice Stadium|
|13||at Clemson||Clemson Memorial Stadium, Clemson, S.C.|