The SEC released its non-permanent, cross-divisional opponents schedule on Monday. As expected, South Carolina will only play SEC West teams other than Texas A&M twice over a twelve year period, once at home and once away.
|2016||at Mississippi State|
|2018||at Ole Miss|
|2023||vs. Mississippi State|
|2025||vs. Ole Miss|
(Permanent opponents in 2014: Home - Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M; Away - Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt. Sites alternate home and away through 2025.)
South Carolina is going to have a very difficult time in odd years, particularly 2015, 2019, and 2021. The opponents in the Gamecocks' annual home/away rotation are lopsided not only in terms of the number of teams but also the degree of difficulty. In odd years, South Carolina will have to play at Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas A&M while getting Florida, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt at home. The total number of permanent opponents is seven, so they have to be unevenly divided by number, but it sure would be swell if we got to trade in a home game against Kentucky or Vanderbilt in exchange for a moving any of those other four games to Williams-Brice.
As far as the mix of non-permanent SEC West opponents, it's hard to complain too much because you're going to end up having to play the same six teams any way you slice it. Where you might have good reason to be upset, though, is the year-to-year order of the non-permanent opponents and the way they're paired with the home/away permanent opponent rotation. In 2015, 2019, and 2021, South Carolina will have to play perennial powers LSU, Alabama, and Auburn, respectively, in addition to road games against Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. The trips out to College Station and Columbia, Mo. are two of the lengthiest journeys in all of the SEC.
The flip side of having some very difficult seasons to look forward to due to a lopsided odd-year, even-year schedule is that we should also have some relatively easy years. In 2016, for example, we get Mississippi St. on the road to go along with a favorable home-away draw from our permanent opponents. In 2018, we have Ole Miss on the road to go along with the favorable permanent draw. (Although given our luck with Ole Miss, they'll have an awesome team in 2018 sandwiched between awful 2017 and 2019 teams -- not that that luck stopped us last time we played the Rebels.)
In 2022, we'll have Arkansas along with the favorable permanent draw. While having to slog through brutal schedules in 2015, 2019, and 2021 won't be much fun, the good news is that if we field a good team in 2016, 2018, or 2022 (granting that MSU, Ole Miss, and Arkansas continue to play at their current levels, which certainly isn't a given, especially for Ole Miss and Arkansas), we could have very good opportunities in those years to win big.