We’re now just two days away from the South Carolina Gamecocks opening the season against the North Carolina State Wolfpack in Charlotte, so by now we know our readers have heard just about every opinion in the book.
Luckily for you, we have more.
Our entire staff has converged on this page to give you how we think the season is going to turn out for the Gamecocks. We’re one big melting pot here at GABA -- every take has their own taste. So hopefully there’s a flavor on this page which fits your sensibilities.
Chris: First and foremost, let me say I think this team outplayed their talent last season. This was a team equipped with four-to-five win talent that stumbled into six and a bowl. But now that young talent is back and has evolved into six-seven win talent, but I’m not totally certain that will happen. For South Carolina to reach their peak, this needs to happen:
- Jake Bentley can’t go through a sophomore slump. If Josh Rosen isn’t immune, neither is Bentley.
- The offensive line has to take the next step, or else expect more games like Florida and Clemson of last year.
- A pass rush has to develop from somewhere, or the defense will remain one dimensional.
If those three things happen, I think this team peaks at 7-5 and is competitive in their losses. 7-5 would be great considering this schedule, which I don’t think has been talked about enough. There might be ten bowl teams on this schedule with a top-ten FCS team in Wofford. Granted, some of the tough games (Clemson, Florida) are at home an equal amount are on the road (Texas A&M, Georgia, Tennessee).
Realistically, I finishes between 5-7 or 6-6 with Missouri being the real swing game that makes a difference. I urge fans not to inflate their expectations for 2017 because I still think the rebuild is on the right track.
Thomas: To say that I was shocked by us winning six games last wouldn’t be a correct statement. To me, if Jake Bentley starts every game last year we most likely beat Kentucky and play Mississippi State a lot closer. We did have a much easier schedule last year, with East Carolina, UMass, & Western Carolina. Those teams had a combined 7 wins, which is pretty bad.
Now, onto this season. Louisiana Tech and Wofford are the only two teams that would be considered, “easy wins,”, but LT was 9-5 last year and Wofford is a top ten FCS team. NC State is considered by some a playoff sleeper, and their defensive line will be a huge test for our O-Line. Going to Texas A&M, Tennessee, & Georgia is not something that should be taken lightly. Hopefully, South Carolina can win two out of those three, but one would be more reasonable.
Realistically, 7-8 wins including a bowl game is about where I see South Carolina landing at. They’re going to improve with the team overall, but the schedule and record won’t reflect that. If we get a lot of things to go our way, nine wins would be amazing. For right now, 7-5 is where I see the Gamecocks landing.
Sydney: I guess I’ll echo the seven win prediction, but at this point, outside of maybe Wofford and Vandy, I don’t know if there’s a game where I can go in and say with full certainty, “You know, I feel really confident that the Gamecocks can win this one.” That’s mainly because I’m flying blind a little when it comes to what this offensive line and pass rush can do, because if this team doesn’t have either, they’re going to be in big trouble. The question is if they hit that 7-win mark, will it be seen as improvement? Probably (especially if they win a bowl), but eventually for Muschamp to prove himself he’ll need to show that he’s capable of not only developing an efficient offense for once, but also helping this program emerge as a factor in the SEC East.
Matt: Once again, I too believe in 7 wins. I am in agreement with Sydney about the confidence factor as well. I'm not confident in any game besides those two, and maybe LA Tech. I do have a feeling the Gamecocks will have one of the best offenses in the SEC, which will help them pick up an upset win against the likes of Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, or Florida. There's a lot of holes on this team like the offensive and defensive lines, but this team does have a lot of talent.
Demetri: Jesus, do I have to be the unpopular one every time? I think this is a six win team, but the thing is I think they are going to be so improved from last year, particularly along the o-line. The problem is the rest of the East (except for maybe Tennessee and, given the three quarterback situation, probably Florida too) is going to take a big leap forward as well.
The Cocks are going to score an upset in conference. Maybe two if Kevin Sumlin struggles early and A&M is in disarray by the end of September. The truth is you could tell me Carolina is going to win 4 games. You could tell me they are going to win 8 games. I’d believe either, so let’s split the difference at 6-6 with a 4-4 record in conference and then we can all enjoy scenic Memphis for the holidays!
Here’s a fun extra prediction. Shi Smith edges out Najee Harris for SEC Freshman of the year.
Kody: Don’t worry, Demetri, I agree with you. I think this is a six-win team at best, with a possible seventh win in reach by way of bowl victory or conference upset (Florida is my pick for an SEC “shocker” this year). South Carolina took a bigger step forward than most expected last season, but that was helped by a forgiving schedule. Unfortunately I think that set up some unrealistic expectations for this year and I do think the Gamecocks will be a better and improved team, but the schedule is so difficult combined with the team being so young makes doubt their record will reflect it. In many ways, this group reminds me of what USC had early in the Spurrier era: a handful of talented playmakers on both sides of the ball who can keep games interesting, but the lack of functional depth will sink them once the fourth quarter rolls around. As Chris said, it’ll be important for fans to not overreact when this team doesn’t rack up 8-9 wins, because the final record likely won’t tell the whole story.
Ryan: 6/7 wins with this schedule should be considered an improvement. Considering the wins over East Carolina, UMass and Western Carolina weren't exactly convincing last year. The Gamecocks could be anywhere from 3-0 to 0-3 heading into La Tech. NC State is a tough opponent to start with and then going on the road in conference is never easy. Then the Kentucky game, while the Gamecocks do owe the Cats a beating, this is Stoop’s best team he’s had in Lexington. There really is not much separating anyone in the east this year, I would not be shocked if the conference record was 2-6 or 6-2.
If the defense progresses in the pass rush and tackling improves, then that would be a major boost. With health, the offense could be one of the best in the SEC. I’ll go ahead and say 6-6, but that would be a way better .500 season than last year.
Kaci: The Gamecocks are going to go 15-0! Now that I made that absurdly unrealistic prediction, it doesn’t seem so ridiculous for me to say that I think the Gamecocks get 8 wins this season. As others have pointed out, last year’s team took a bigger step forward than expected and even if they improve like that again, they’ve got a tough road ahead with this year’s schedule. But I think that this year’s team can be competitive in most of their games, especially with an offense that could be pretty good, and that if a few things break their way they can get to the 8 win mark. I know that expecting things to break Carolina’s way is probably a little too optimistic, but I can’t help that optimism is just part of who I am.
Katie: I am an Eternal Sports Optimist, so I echo Kaci on the undefeated season prediction. That being said, more realistically, I’m going to say 7 or 8 wins, because I feel like maybe we’re due for a completely unexpected fluke victory (or maybe I just want us to be?). In all honesty I don’t follow off-season stuff all that much so I don’t have insight about how the team is going to do in any particular way, but I do think they should/will be better overall than last year. That being said, they could also be worse, because sports are unpredictable! (why do we do this to ourselves?) However I’m guaranteeing you all right now that they’ll beat Vandy, because that’s the Homecoming game and I’ll be there, and I haven’t seen the Gamecocks lose in person since they dropped a game against Arkansas in November 2010. You’re welcome in advance.
So there you have it readers. The popular opinion seems to be seven wins amongst the staff with the dissenters being myself, Demetri and Kody. I think seven would be a huge success for this team at this stage of the rebuild and certainly would be happy with that result.
Feel free to give us your season predictions in the comments below.