The South Carolina Gamecocks open October with a familiar in-state face in the S.C. State Bulldogs, which — combined with their date against Charlotte — should allow the Gamecocks to take an extended breath before traveling to Kentucky to kick off the meat of the SEC schedule. However, emphasis on “should” in that previous sentence — Buddy Pough’s Bulldogs rule the MEAC and are a consistent FCS playoff presence, and could be a tougher out than one usually prefers to see in a cupcake.
Last meeting: While the Gamecocks generally try to pick up a smaller in-state opponent each year, the Bulldogs have been on quite a hiatus from South Carolina’s schedule: The teams last met in 2009, with USC coming away with a 38-14 victory.
Last season: The S.C. State Bulldogs are the reigning HBCU national champions, an impressive feat they accomplished by bouncing back after a rough 1-5 start and ultimately shocking Deion Sanders’ Jackson State Tigers in a 31-10 Celebration Bowl rout. Life is pretty good in Orangeburg right now.
Player to watch out for: Sophomore quarterback Corey Fields Jr. paces the Bulldogs’ offense, coming off a season in which he threw for 2,097 yards and 17 touchdowns (albeit against 11 interceptions). S.C. State’s defense is led by defensive end Jeblonski Green, who amassed 38 tackles (19.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, and an interception last season on his way to being named a Senior Bowl HBCU Prospect to Watch.
Prognosis: There’s little reason to suspect that S.C. State won’t roll through the MEAC again on its way to another FCS playoff appearance, and the Bulldogs’ result against South Carolina isn’t terribly relevant to their season goals.