Gamecocks put together a formidable out-of-conference schedule for 2013, but even the GEORGIA DIDN'T HAVE TO PLAY ANYBODY! crowd should be pleased.
Aug. 31 vs. North Carolina
Sept. 7 at Georgia
Sept. 14 vs. Vanderbilt
Sept. 21 OPEN
Sept. 28 at Central Florida
Oct. 5 vs. Kentucky
Oct. 12 at Arkansas
Oct. 19: at Tennessee
Oct. 26: at Missouri
Nov. 2 vs. Mississippi State
Nov. 9 OPEN
Nov. 16 vs. Florida
Nov. 23 vs. Coastal Carolina
Nov. 30 vs. Clemson
This is the most favorable schedule that the Gamecocks have seen in several years, which is just as attributable to the improved South Carolina program as it is to the improved SEC West draw. Even at the beginning of this season, I looked at the LSU game and thought, "Yeah, that's a loss." I see no such game on this schedule.
The two changes (as far as I know) are that the opener against UNC was moved from Thursday to Saturday and South Carolina State was swapped out for Coastal Carolina. I'm a little bummed that the game against the Tar Heels was moved from Thursday. The extra couple days to prepare for a tough early season SEC road game in Athens would have been nice.
That said, I'm thrilled that the USC/UGa game has been moved back to the second game of the year. Even though FLORIDA IS BACK!!!!, the early season matchup between the Bulldogs and Gamecocks was a nice replacement for the rendered meaningless Florida/Tennessee rivalry game.
I also feel pretty good about the placement of the bye weeks. The first comes in the season's fourth week after a three game stretch that is far more difficult than the first quarter of most other BCS teams' schedules. I like that the second bye week is the week prior to the Florida game, which should be our toughest game of the season, but three consecutive road games at Fayetteville at Knoxivlle and at Columbia (West) could prove difficult, especially considering they are followed by a home game against Mississippi State, which already has the feel of a game we'll be struggling to get through healthy, much like the 2012 Tennessee game.
Three of the four out-of-conference opponents are teams that could conceivably end the year in the top 25 or thereabouts, so if South Carolina happens to be in the conversation for a BCS championship, that could help (provided, of course, that they win those games). Outside of Clemson, the Gamecocks don't have any marquee non-conference games on par with the LSU/Oregon game last year or the Alabama/Michigan game this year (you know, before we knew Michigan wasn't all that good), but it's a pretty impressive schedule with only one true cupcake in Coastal Carolina.
How are y'all liking the new scheddy?