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South Carolina Opponent Preview 2016: What do we know about Western Carolina?

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Western Carolina v Texas A&M Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images

The Western Carolina Catamounts travel to Columbia, SC on November 19th. This marks the fifth time that the South Carolina Gamecocks have hosted the feisty program from Cullowhee, with the previous four coming in consecutive seasons between 1986-1989. This also marks the week that the Gamecocks face an FCS opponent at home in the penultimate game of the season before a potentially earth-shattering matchup against that old pain in our ass, a team that just so happens to be the prohibitive favorite to play for a National Championship this season.

People that have not shoved an ice pick into their craniums in the last twelve months will recall that this particular game on last year’s schedule didn’t pan out so well.

Too soon?

Whatever, it’s water under the bridge. Or a bridge too far. Something like that. I don’t know.

TO THE FOOTBALL!

The Catamounts are riding a wave of recent successes under fifth-year head coach Mark Speir. After consecutive 7-win seasons for the first time in over two decades, they return 15 of their 25 possible starters between their offensive, defensive, and special teams units. Among those returning lettermen, 10 earned some sort of honors from the Southern Conference at the end of the 2015 season. They return Detrez Newsome, the running back stud that accounted for 9 rushing touchdowns last season, as well as a talented receiving corps that includes a gritty TE, Tyler Sexton, and the (surprisigly) non-related WR duo of Terryon and Spearman Robinson. However, the elephant in the room on the offensive side of the football will be finding a replacement for all-time leading quarterback, QB Troy Mitchell. Presumptive starter Wes Holcombe will compete against a tandem of ‘athlete’ redshirt freshmen in Kalen Whitlow and Tyrie Adams. On the other side of the ball, WCU will return its top four tacklers from the previous year, including SoCon-leader Daniel Riddle (129), Tyson Dickson (96), Fred Payne (75), and A.J. Newman Jr. (68), as well as the corps of their secondary, headlined by Trey Morgan.

Last Season: 7-4 (5-2 SoCon) - No playoff berth.

Best Returning Players: Daniel Riddle, Detrez Newsome, Trey Morgan.

Western Carolina v Texas A&M
-The Cats are gonna have to make due without Troy Mitchell.
Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images

Nothing stings like trying to replace the name and the face of your offense.

Wait, we kinda know what that feels like.

However, WCU really doesn’t lose a whole bunch from the upper register of their talent and production pool coming into this season. Everything is pointing in the direction that the senior leadership will lead the Catamounts into their best season ever in 2016. If they can stay relatively injury-free, they will be a fringe contender for the FCS playoffs this fall. A lot of that will depend on the way that things play out on the field, and with a front-loaded schedule it could be difficult, but it will be no surprise to have a 6-4 or a 7-3 team that’s ready to play when they roll into Williams-Brice stadium.

Prognosis: Let’s be honest, this team is serviceably talented, and they play a brand of football we can all appreciate, but this isn’t last year, this team doesn’t have the line depth or the talent at the skill positions to play out a sequel of last year’s Greek tragedy.

35-13, Gamecocks.

Forever to Thee,