Sept. 5: Coastal Carolina
The Gamecocks and Chanticleers have only met on the gridiron twice, first in 2013 and most recently in 2018.
South Carolina won both games by a combined score of 119-25. As far as the 2020 matchup, the Gamecocks shouldn’t have a tough time handling the Chants this year.
Coastal is still transitioning to the FBS level and will be simply outmatched by the talent advantage that South Carolina holds.
With that being said, a player to watch for the Chants will be senior running back CJ Marable, who is back after totaling 1,085 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2019.
CJ will need to have a very productive day for Coastal to have an opportunity to keep the game close.
X-Factor: South Carolina linebackers. If the Gamecock Linebackers can keep the Coastal running game in check, South Carolina should breeze to an easy win.
Prediction: 41-10 South Carolina
Sept. 12: East Carolina
The Pirates, lead by second year head coach Mike Houston, are coming off of a 4-8 season in 2019.
Houston was hired away from James Madison after compiling a 37-6 record in three years as the James Madison coach, including an FCS Championship in 2016.
East Carolina should be much improved in 2020, as they return 15 starters and landed a plethora of highly touted transfers during the offseason.
A talented receiving corps should be the strong point of the team, but the South Carolina defensive backs are battle tested and should be able to control that aspect of the game.
This could turn out to be a trap game for the Gamecocks, but South Carolina should still be a double digit favorite and I expect that the Gamecocks pull it out without much trouble.
X-Factor: ECU Head Coach Mike Houston. Houston will need to devise an elite gameplay to be able to have a chance late in this game. It is possible, but unlikely.
Prediction: 38-17 South Carolina
Sept. 19: Missouri
The Battle of Columbia returns to the South Carolina location in 2020. South Carolina lost this contest 34-14 in 2019, and are surely circling this game on the 2020 calendar.
For Missouri, out goes Barry Odom and in comes Eli Drinkwitz, a familiar name for the Gamecock fanbase.
The offense returns just four starters and has some serious uncertainty at quarterback. The offensive line for the Tigers is also shaky and mostly inexperienced.
The bright side for the Tigers is that senior RB Larry Roundtree is back and will presumably be the focal point of the offense.
The Missouri defense was very solid last year, but loses key pieces at all three levels.
Linebackers Nick Bolton and DL Kobie Whiteside are the leaders on that side of the ball, and lead the team in tackled and sacks respectively.
X-Factor: South Carolina defensive line. If the defensive line can take advantage of a new quarterback and mostly new Missouri offensive line, it could make it a long day for Tiger fans, and a very fun day for Will Muschamp.
Prediction: 28-21 South Carolina
Sept. 26: @ Kentucky
Mark Stoops is back and yet again fields a very disciplined and experienced team. 19 of the Wildcats projected starters are upperclassmen, with 12 being seniors.
Kentucky loses dynamic playmaker Lynn Bowden Jr, but Terry Wilson is back after missing last season with injury to fill the quarterback role.
Stoops also landed transfer QB and former blue chip recruit Joey Gatewood from Auburn, so the quarterback room is deeper than it has been in some time.
The bulk of the defense returns as well after ranking in the top 15 of scoring defense last year, making this team well rounded on both sides of the ball.
FS Yusuf Corker and LB Deandre Square are players to watch on the Kentucky defense.
X-Factor: Special Teams. This should be a close, low scoring game and special teams so often make the difference in these types of games. The group needs to be fundamentally sound and focused, because one mistake here could make a huge difference.
Prediction: 21-17 Kentucky
Oct. 3: @ Florida
Dan Mullen and the Gators 2020 team have some of the highest expectations since the Urban Meyer era.
Quarterback Kyle Trask has become a Heisman hopeful, and the defense returns a talented unit following up a top 10 scoring defense in 2019.
However, Will Muschamp has given Mullen’s Florida teams some trouble the last couple of years. South Carolina had the 2018 game in the bag but blew a 31-14 lead in the second half in the Swamp.
Gator tight end Kyle Pitts is a tough matchup for any defense. He returns after leading Florida in receiving yards in 2019 and is widely considered one of the best tight ends in the nation.
Linebackers Ventral Miller and DE Jeremiah Moon are big parts of the front seven and will need to play well to help an inexperienced secondary.
X-Factor: Gamecock Front Seven. If the pass rush can get to Kyle Trask early and often, it would set the tone for the game and go a long way to keep this game close late into the second half. They’ll also need to be at least respectable against the run, which shouldn’t be as much of a problem.
Prediction: 34-24 Florida
Oct. 10: Tennessee
The Vols got their first win ever against Will Muschamp en route to a 8-5 campaign in 2019 and have high expectations this season, but be careful before buying into the hype.
A lousy offense, ranked 100th in the nation in total offense, was masked by close wins and a very respectable defense last year.
Nonetheless, the group does return QB Jarrett Guarantano and nine starters on that side of the ball, so it should improve some.
The offensive line will be very formidable and multiple RB’s are capable of providing starting production.
The defense loses some key pieces (team leaders in sacks and tackles) and will need to reload, but it is talented enough to do so without losing too much production.
CB Bryce Thompson and DE Aubrey Solomon are players South Carolina will need to account for.
X-Factor: Tennessee Offense. The Vols offense will need to step up in a big way this season and this game will be a great test. The squads are pretty evenly matched and should end up being a fairly low scoring game, but if the UT offense rolls it could be a lot for South Carolina to handle.
Prediction: 27-20 South Carolina
Oct. 24: Texas A&M
South Carolina has yet to beat Texas A&M since the conference expanded, and are 0-6 all time.
This season’s Aggie group will present a tough challenge in order to right the ship.
QB Kellen Mond and RB Isaiah Spiller are back and playing behind a very good offensive line, which should make for a very balanced offense.
Defensively they’re also sound on all three levels, led by senior linebacker Buddy Johnson.
X-Factor: Ryan Hilinski. The weak spot on the Aggie defense last year was the secondary. While it should be improved, it is still a group that is prone to giving up some big plays. South Carolina will have their best chance if Hilinski can capitalize and create some explosive plays.
Prediction: 34-20 Texas A&M
Oct. 31: @ Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt finished 3-9 a year ago turning up the heat for Derek Mason a little bit.
The defense will have to make some serious strides for this team to be competitive. Linebacker Dimitri Moore is the key for them.
The offense loses a ton of production, namely RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn and WR Kelija Lipscomb. There will also be a new face at quarterback, likely freshman Ken Seals.
X-Factor: Vanderbilt Defense. The only way for this game to be close is if the Vandy defense steals some possessions from the Gamecocks and forces it to be a low scoring game. Even with that, the Vandy offense will have a tough time against South Carolina’s strong defensive unit.
Prediction: 38-10 South Carolina
Nov. 7: Georgia
Last years contest with Georgia was one of the few bright spots of the season.
This year, Georgia will enter Columbia with a stout defense but a lot of questions on offense. Two immediately eligible transfer QB’s will battle for the starting job, Jamie Newman and JT Daniels.
Whoever it is will have a ton of playmakers around him at all positions. WR George Pickens and RB Zamir White are both capable of being all-conference players.
The defense is going to be outstanding, after having the #1 scoring defense in the nation last year. They return eight starters on that side of the ball and will again be a Top Five unit nationally.
Linebacker Monty Rice and safety Richard LeCounte are back leading the defensive group.
X-Factor: South Carolina O-Line. The offensive line will need to create adequate space for the running backs as well as time for Hilinski if the Gamecocks are going to have a shot here. Winning in the trenches went a long way to pull off the upset last year, and that will need to happen again in 2020.
Prediction: 34-17 Georgia
Nov. 14: @ LSU
The defending National Champions have a ton of holes to fill, but have the talent stacked up to be capable of doing so.
Former four-star recruit Miles Brennan steps in at quarterback to fill the shoes of Joe Burrow. WR Jamarr Chase returns after winning the 2019 Biletnikoff award, and will need to maintain that production this season to keep LSU’s offense rolling.
The defense is led by Derek Stingily Jr, who is already one of the best players in the whole country even as a true sophomore.
Safeties Jacoby Stevens and Kary Vincent are also back to make the secondary the strong point of the defense.
X-Factor: South Carolina running backs. Marshawn Lloyd and co. will need to have a strong game here to give the Gamecocks their best chance. This would not only keep the ball out of the hands of the dangerous LSU offense, but also take pressure off of Hilinski and allow for better play action opportunities against a secondary that is as good as any in the country.
Prediction: 35-21 LSU
Nov. 21: Wofford
South Carolina’s only FCS opponent of the season. This game should serve as just a tune up for the Palmetto Bowl, and the starters will likely be out of the game before the fourth quarter.
X-Factor: Will Muschamp. Muschamp needs to have the team prepared to come out of the gates hot. Both to get the starters out and avoid injury for the Clemson game, but also to get the young guys some valued game reps.
Prediction: 48-14 South Carolina
Nov. 28: @ Clemson
The Tigers came up short in the national title game in 2019, but won’t be falling off this season.
A pair of Heisman contenders in the offensive backfield will be the firepower. QB Trevor Lawrence and RB Travis Etienne are both serious contenders for national awards.
They have some inexperience at WR with Tee Higgins leaving for the NFL and Justyn Ross recently having surgery requiring him to miss the season, but there is obviously talent there to fill in.
The defense is more of a question mark, especially the secondary. The Tigers defensive front will be good enough to cover for the secondary for most opponents.
However, if a quarterback has time in the pocket, it could pose a problem for Brent Venables’ defense.
X-Factor: South Carolina secondary. If the secondary can play a good game and force a turnover or two, South Carolina could keep it competitive into the second half. The Clemson receiving corps is not as strong as usual, and the Gamecock secondary will need to take full advantage and steal some possessions.
Prediction: 38-24 Clemson