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South Carolina's 2016 football schedule shapes up nicely

With the release of the 2016 SEC football schedule, Gamecock fans can look ahead to next season before the current one even ends. How do things shape up for South Carolina in 2016?

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

2016 is going to be a historic year for South Carolina. No matter what their record turns out to be, the Gamecocks will enter next season with a head coach not named Spurrier for the first time since 2004.

No matter who the head man is next season, the Gamecocks now know what their schedule will look like for the 2016 campaign. At first glance the schedule looks like most SEC schedules do: tough. But taking a closer look, if there is such a thing as a "easy" SEC slate, this may just be it.

Opening the season with back to back conference road games is never an easy task, but Vanderbilt will still be looking to find their footing and Mississippi State will be starting a new quarterback with the departure of Dak Prescott.

The Gamecocks will then return home to open the season at Williams Brice against what is always a tough East Carolina opponent. The Pirates currently sit at 4-4 this season but are always a tough matchup. ECU is coming off a season in 2014 where they beat both North Carolina and Virginia Tech and only lost by a touchdown to the Gators in the Swamp this season. While no cake walk, the Gamecocks should presumably be able to handle themselves in the home opener.

South Carolina will then hit the road for the third time in four weeks as they head to Lexington, KY to face the Wildcats. Lexington has not been kind to the Gamecocks in recent years and South Carolina hasn't beaten the Wildcats since 2013. Mark Stoops has Kentucky on the rise and this could yet again be a tough game for South Carolina.

It's after the opening four game stretch that South Carolina could really do some damage. The Gamecocks will play their next five games at home against Texas A&M, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee and Missouri. While the four conference games will be difficult, the fact that the Gamecocks get each of these opponents at home is a big plus. Assuming the Gamecocks can go 2-1 or 3-0 in their first three conference games and find a way to win three of the four at home, there is no reason to think the Gamecocks couldn't possibly be playing for a trip to Atlanta when they travel to Gainesville to face Florida on November 12.

South Carolina will finish off the 2016 slate with a home game against Western Carolina before travelling to Clemson to face the Tigers on November 26th.

There is no such thing as an easy schedule in the SEC, but things seem to have shaped up nicely for South Carolina with the majority of their toughest opponents coming to Columbia. For whomever takes over as the head coach of the Gamecocks, you have to think they will be happy with what they were given.