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Grading the experts: How well did they predict South Carolina’s 2017 season?

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With the regular season complete, it’s time for a reckoning.

This aged really well.

Now that the regular season is over and we’re stuck impatiently awaiting the Outback Bowl, it’s a good time to reflect on and also laugh at various preseason predictions for the 2017 South Carolina Gamecocks. SEC Network analysts Booger McFarland and Greg McElroy are the easiest targets with their doomsday 4-8 projections, but I thought it’d be interesting to take stock of where other pundits and outlets planted their flags.

First, in the interest of fairness and transparency, I’ll start with the fine folks at GABA. Here’s our preseason prediction post, but if you’re too lazy to click, most of us landed around the 6- or 7-win mark, with only a couple (Kaci and Katie, congratulations!) taking the over and calling an 8-win squad. With that out of the way, let’s see how wrong (or right!) everyone else was about the 8-4 South Carolina Gamecocks, who finished second in the SEC’s Eastern Division.

They blew it

  • Las Vegas books set the over/under for South Carolina’s win total at 5.5.
  • ESPN’s FPI rankings had the Gamecocks favored in just five of their 12 games.
  • SB Nation’s S&P+ projections pegged South Carolina at 6 wins with a fourth-place finish in the SEC East, which was the popular landing spot for the Gamecocks in most publications. (If you really want to have some fun, go back and look at preseason predictions for Florida.)
  • The State’s Josh Kendall had a 6-6 forecast, predicting the Gamecocks would get out to a hot start and then tail off. He was kind of right about that, at least.
  • Saturday Down South went with 7-5 and made the bold move of calling a win over Clemson.
  • Post and Courier columnist Gene Sapakoff picked South Carolina to go 7-6, including a bowl victory.
  • According to SEC Country’s helpful roundup of various preseason magazines, ESPN predicted six wins and Athlon predicted 4 (!). The others (Lindy’s, Phil Steele, and Sporting News), declined to specify a final record, but had the Gamecocks finishing fourth at best and sixth at worst in the East.
  • This is a more general observation, but just about every preview I looked back on held up the South Carolina offense as the strongest unit of the team and one that could be fun and exciting to watch. About that...

They nailed it

  • 247Sports’ Brad Crawford called 8-4, but had the Gamecocks beating Kentucky and losing to Tennessee, which certainly made sense at the time. Heck, I think I’d probably still sign up for that.
  • Garnet & Cocky over at Fansided got oh-so-close, calling a loss to Florida but a win over Kentucky. Yeah, that’s kind of a common theme.
  • The Daily Gamecock laid out the best case scenario for this season at 8-4, and oh yeah, also expected a win against Kentucky.
  • Okay, so maybe “nailed it” is a bit of a stretch, but CBS Sports analyst Ben Kercheval highlighted South Carolina as his choice for most underrated SEC team:

South Carolina enters 2017 with a good, young quarterback in Jake Bentley, a proven defender in linebacker Skai Moore and a winnable division. It'll be a longshot for South Carolina to take the SEC East, but don't be surprised if they're in the running.

Kercheval wasn’t alone, either, as coworker Barton Simmons also said the Gamecocks would be in the division hunt. I really didn’t recall much preseason noise about South Carolina having a legitimate shot in the East, so those were bold predictions indeed.

So, the takeaway? Other than simply “College football is crazy,” South Carolina remains a bit ahead of schedule in terms of its win-loss record and also with rebuilding public perception. If the Gamecocks beat Michigan in Tampa, they might land themselves on more “dark horse” radars for 2018.