The Gamecocks enter the 2019 season healthy and full of optimism in year four of the Will Muschamp era.
However, they’ll also have arguably the hardest schedule in the country.
While this should be Muschamp’s most talented team at USC, just getting to a bowl game could be considered success with the gauntlet ahead.
vs. UNC (Charlotte, NC)
The Gamecocks open the season at Bank of America Stadium against a UNC team that was abysmal a year ago.
However, UNC will try to prove how Mack Brown will have an instant impact on the program.
I find it really hard to believe that South Carolina’s defense will give up more than 14 points to a true freshman quarterback with no elite weapons to help. I also think Jake Bentley will have a solid game and will do enough to beat UNC.
I might also remind you that South Carolina has only lost one season opener this century.
Prediction: Gamecocks 27, UNC 10
vs. Charleston Southern (Columbia, SC)
I don’t want to call this a cupcake game, but I expect this to be the one game where we see both Dakereon Joyner and Ryan Hilinski.
Of course, the coaching staff is unpredictable when it comes to taking out Bentley in a blowout. However, I think this would be the perfect chance to see both backup quarterbacks in a live game.
The key to this game is to limit injuries and to stay focused throughout.
Prediction: Gamecocks 49, CSU 7
vs. Alabama (Columbia, SC)
This is the most difficult team South Carolina will play this year.
Alabama will be extremely talented, especially since they bring back elite players like Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy.
South Carolina’s defense will be good, but they won’t be comparable to the 2010 South Carolina defense yet.
The Gamecocks will have the home field advantage, but it won’t be enough to beat the Crimson Tide, who will be on a revenge run this year.
Prediction: Bama 35, Gamecocks 13
at Mizzou (Columbia, MO)
South Carolina has won three straight against Missouri. Straight to the point: I think they’ll make it four in a row.
Bentley knows that this season is his last chance to leave his legacy and he’ll use the Missouri game to continue to build that.
Also, if South Carolina could shut down Drew Lock, they can shut down Kelly Bryant.
Prediction: Gamecocks 35, Mizzou 31
vs. Kentucky (Columbia, SC)
I think this is one of the most unpredictable games of the year because Kentucky will be such a mystery team.
They lost Benny Snell and Josh Allen, who were a key part of their 10 win season.
However, who can forget about the miserable losing streak USC has to the Wildcats.
Losing to UK would be a terrible look for Will Muschamp and his future at South Carolina. Expect USC to get the Wildcat sized monkey off their backs and end the streak.
Prediction: Gamecocks 24, UK 21
at Georgia (Athens, GA)
I think this is the toughest game on the schedule for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks already got beat bad by Georgia last year and the Dawgs bring back a ton of talent.
This is one of those games that will be won in the trenches.
Georgia’s offensive line, along with their talented running back room, will just run it down the throats of South Carolina’s defense.
Despite having a bye week to prepare, Georgia is too talented and too good in Athens.
Prediction: Dawgs 42, Gamecocks 21
Who can forget the blown game in The Swamp from a year ago?
This year’s match-up takes place in Columbia. However, this is just one of those games where I expect the Gamecocks to come out sluggish.
I don’t expect them to roll over and just hand the game over to the Gators.
However, this will be one of those games where they won’t be able to take advantage of Florida’s mistakes.
Prediction: Gators 13, Gamecocks 7
at Tennessee (Knoxville, TN)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Will Muschamp has never lost to Tennessee as a head coach.
Even when South Carolina had a struggling team, they have been able to beat Tennessee.
The Gamecocks struggled last year with the Volunteers, but I expect this to be a comeback game for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks defense will dominate in this game while Jake Bentley puts up solid numbers.
Prediction: Gamecocks 21, UT 10
vs. Vanderbilt (Columbia, SC)
This is a game where South Carolina SHOULD take care of business and walk away with a win.
However, it feels like the Dories are due to give our boys a scare.
I think South Carolina will struggle, turning the football over which will lead to a close game late.
I think Vanderbilt running back Ke’shawn Vaughn will surprise everyone and will have over 150 all-purpose yards in this game.
A Parker White field goal turns out to be the difference in this one.
Prediction: Gamecocks 24, Vandy 21
vs. Appalachian State (Columbia, SC)
Appalachian State seems to be the popular upset team every year.
They are the favorites to win the Sun Belt and will certainly hope to spoil South Carolina’s season in Columbia.
I think they’ll put up a good fight. However, South Carolina has too much depth for the upset to actually happen.
Muschamp will make sure South Carolina hangs on.
Prediction: Gamecocks 35, Mountaineers 21
at Texas A&M (College Station, TX)
Death, Taxes and losing to Texas A&M: That has been South Carolina since they started their annual series with the Aggies.
South Carolina’s only loss in a season opener this whole millennium was to the Aggies in 2014, when the Gamecocks got an unpleasant surprise which began the fall of Spurrier’s program.
South Carolina has never beaten the Aggies in the history of their program.
That changes this year.
Yes, Kyle Field is one of the most hostile environments in college football. However, I think the Aggies are coming into this season a bit overrated.
Jimbo Fisher is a good coach, but Kellen Mond is overrated. His numbers were inflated by a seven overtime game last year and I just don’t see Texas A&M winning this game.
I think Jake Bentley outduels Kellen Mood in a game that turns into a shootout.
Prediction: Gamecocks 42, Texas A&M 35
vs. Clemson (Columbia, SC)
Remember when Jake Bentley put up 500 yards and 5 touchdowns against Clemson’s elite secondary?
Expect more of the same this year in Columbia.
Clemson’s defense was carried by their defensive line last year. However, they lost a lot of talent on defense overall.
The Tigers offense is one of the best in the country and will set up for this game to be a high scoring affair.
I think Shi Smith will prove his worth in this game just as Deebo Samuel did against Clemson in his sophomore year.
In the end, Clemson’s talent will prevail. However, I think this will be a fun one in Columbia.
Prediction: Clemson 49, Gamecocks 41
Overall Record: 8-4 (5-3)
An eight win season could be good enough to send USC to Florida for a New Years Day bowl game, which would be a major accomplishment with this season’s tough schedule.
A 5-3 finish in the SEC would be a huge accomplishment as well and certainly exceed expectations.
This season should set up nicely for Muschamp and company to make even bigger strides in 2020 and continue to bring the program back to prominence.