Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
Date: November 2, in Columbia
All Time Series Record: 24-4
Last Meeting: 37-14
Last Year: 7-6 (4-4)
Head Coach: Will Muschamp (22-17, 3rd Year)
Last year, the Gamecocks were thinking they could surprise some teams in the East and maybe finish 2nd, or if by great luck, 1st in the division. Losses to UGA, Kentucky, and Florida derailed that train. This year, they are thinking they are a better team but will probably have a worse record.
Last year, the offense put up 6.24 yards per play, which was good for 24th in the Nation. Their total offense was 43rd with 425.6 yards per game. They were 3-2 in one score games, losing to TAMU and UF by a combined seven points. Their offensive productivity was solid, but they would shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers.
Speaking of! Jake Bentley returns for his Senior year. It kind of feels like he is reaching the Hunter Renfrow zone. But Bentley should be able to improve upon a solid season last year. He completed just under 62% of his passes and averaged over 13 yards per completion. He did throw 14 interceptions, however, to his 27 touchdowns. That has been the knock on him. Big arm, and potential playmaking ability to only sail one over the middle into the arms of a very open defensive back.
USCe has produced solid NFL talent at the WR core, and last year stand out Deebo Samuel was drafted leaving Bryan Edwards (6’ 3”, 215lb SR) and Shi Smith (5’10” 185lb JR) to carry the one-two punch from the edge of the offense. However, they lack depth in the pass catching department. They also lost their top two TE’s.
The running game lost Ty’son Williams who only accounted for 328 yards last year. Rico Dowdle (6’0, 210lbs SR) and Mon Denson (5’10”, 210lbs SR) will carry (pun intended!) the load this year, but don’t expect great things. Under Coach Boom’s watch, the Gamecocks have not finished higher than 12th in the SEC in rushing.
Which is odd, because they are 20-4 when rushing for 100+ yards during his tenure. I know, I know, correlation isn’t causation, but it curious that they aren’t better on the ground when rushing success equals wins.
To boot, the OL took a significant hit from last year. They lost two starters and two backups. This year, they will start two redshirt Freshmen, one true sophomore, a junior, and a senior.
The line on the other side of the ball looks to be nasty. They have a potential first round pick in DT Javon Kinlaw (6’6”, 302lbs SR) and return DJ Wonnum (6’5” 255lbs SR) from a season ending injury last year.
In their secondary, they will be rangey, fast, and experienced for being so young. Israel Mukuamu (6’4”, 205lbs SO) and Jaycee Horn (6’1” 200lbs SO) will lock down the corners while RJ Roderick (6’0” 200 SO) and Jamel Cook (6’4” 200lbs JR) will play the safety positions. (Fun fact: Cook transferred in from USCw. Wonder how many other transfers you could make inside D1 where you keep the same acronym for your team? OU, UT, UA, OSU... maybe more than I thought)
As a unit, the defense was 93rd in the country in turnovers gained with only 16. They were even worse on offense with 21 turnovers lost. They gave up 420+ yards per game and 5.57 yards per play. Not good. Although, they do play some seriously talented teams, including in state rival and new CFB dynasty, the Clemson Dabo-used-to-be-a-clown-now-he’s-clowning-all-of-us’s.
The defense could be the best one yet, and Bentley may just come into his own with the Senior bump. But they have to play Alabama, Georgia, a resurgent Florida, a sneaky good Texas A&M, and Clemson.
Plus, they won’t know what to make of a 7-0 Vanderbilt team rolling into Williams-Brice Stadium.