South Carolina football: Predicting whether Gamecocks will make a bowl
As the uneven season continues at South Carolina, the chances to make a bowl are closing in, like someone running late trying to catch an elevator.
Trying to end a 2-game losing streak at 3-5 overall and 2-4 in the SEC, South Carolina needs 3 wins to clinch a bowl berth out of remaining games against Vanderbilt and Appalachian State, at Texas A&M and vs. Clemson.
It’s a tough task no matter which teams are on the schedule, as the Gamecocks have shown during the Will Muschamp tenure. Last year, the longest winning streak was 2 games, and each of the previous 2 seasons, they had a pair of 3-game streaks. But those were against the likes of UMass, Tennessee and Missouri, and then Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
This Gamecocks team has lost all but any chance of the benefit of a doubt. Not to mention South Carolina has the 17th toughest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s FPI. The projection suggests the Gamecocks would finish 4.9 and 7.1 with a 1.4 percent chance of winning out. The FPI gives them less than a 22 percent chance to beat A&M (21.8) or Clemson (10.4).
As has been the case with this program in recent years, it’s not as if the Gamecocks can’t beat more than 1 of these teams, it’s what will the performance be the next week? Texas A&M has been ranked this season, Appalachian State is No. 20 and Clemson at No. 4 in the rankings. Of course, Vanderbilt’s upset of Missouri should raise some eyebrows around Columbia following the disappointing effort in Missouri by the Gamecocks.
Making a late-season adjustment appears to be a tall order for a team that struggles to make in-game adjustments. The Gamecocks were 0-for-9 on 3rd-down conversions in the 2nd half against Tennessee after starting the game 4-for-9 in the 1st half.
The Gamecocks are 13th in the SEC and 119th in the nation in 3rd-down conversions against FBS teams (30.7 percent) this season. How about time of possession? South Carolina is last in the SEC and 115th in the nation, 27:10.
“As the game rolled along, we were backed up a good bit in the 1st half and had a hard time flipping the field, and then in the 3rd quarter it never felt like we could get anything going in the run game steadily, really for the entire ball game,” Muschamp said after the Tennessee loss.
It’s the 2nd consecutive game where South Carolina gave up a 2nd-half lead. The Gamecocks also had multiple leads in the opener against North Carolina, including after the 3rd quarter. They had an 11-point lead with 5:10 to go in the 3rd in Charlotte.
The normally reliable special teams fell apart and gave up 14 points. For context, QB Ryan Hilinski’s performance Saturday offers a microcosm to the season. He was 28-for-51 passing. He was sacked 3 times and pressured another 5 times. But he also delivered the 75-yard touchdown on the opening play of the game.
Would that remind you of the Georgia game, after losses to North Carolina, Missouri, Florida and Tennessee losses? Unbridled brilliance marred by episodes of what happened?
The tough thing to predict about this team is what it will do over a 3-game week. Could South Carolina beat Texas A&M? Sure. Clemson? Well, upsets happen. It had a strong showing against Clemson last year, and the Georgia performance could beat most teams. But that same South Carolina team could also turn around and lose to Vanderbilt.
Chances of a bowl game? Ominous.