Expectations are getting higher and higher for the South Carolina Gamecocks, who are coming off a six-win season and bowl appearance. Last season was very freshmen heavy for the Gamecocks on both sides of the ball, and with a year of experience under their belts, many fans are in high spirits. Let’s take a look at some wins, individual play, and what needs to break for South Carolina to have a successful year.
Win opening night against NC State
It is always a momentum boost winning the first game of the season against a tough, out of conference opponent at a mutual site. This could be the initial wave the Gamecocks need to ride on before playing their first home game in week three of the season. NC State is coming off a seven win season in which they played Clemson very tough in an overtime loss and won the Independence Bowl against Vanderbilt. Defensive end Bradley Chubb and quarterback Ryan Finley are two of the biggest returning starters for the Wolfpack.
The last three seasons have featured hard-fought losses to in-conference opponent Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky, who is on the rise as a football program, has stunned the Gamecocks the past three years and they have all been winnable games for South Carolina. Each game has been decided by one touchdown or less. This season, the Gamecocks need to get over the hump and beat the surging Kentucky Wildcats on opening night at Williams-Brice Stadium to show their fans their true legitimacy.
Win two of the four games against Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and Florida
In order to gain some confidence and credibility, South Carolina needs to win at least two of these games against these four strong SEC opponents. Three of the teams, minus Arkansas, rank in the preseason top 25 and would be huge wins for South Carolina. Tennessee and Georgia would be especially big wins because they are on the road in hostile environments. The Gamecocks could make some noise with a few wins against these top SEC teams.
Every year would be successful for a South Carolina fan if their Gamecocks defeated Clemson on rivalry weekend. Win and loss record aside, this game is perhaps the most important game of not only this upcoming year, but every year. Last year was a tough game for the Gamecocks, as they were embarrassed on the road on rivalry weekend. This year, the Clemson Tigers look to defend their National Championship title and finish the season on the road against South Carolina. This would be an incredible win for the Gamecocks’ confidence going into a hopeful bowl game or for them to build off of for next season.
Jake Bentley lives up to the hype
Jake Bentley is stirring up a lot of hype this offseason. His freshman season showed flashes of brilliance after he took over the starting quarterback role midway through the season. He threw nine touchdowns and is talked about as being one of the best young quarterbacks in the country. If Bentley lives up to the hype and creates even more of a buzz heading into the 2018 season, consider it a successful season for the young gunslinger.
Skai Moore returns to old form
Coming off a season ending neck injury, Skai Moore returns to a much-improved Gamecocks defense. Moore, who led the team in tackles from 2013 through 2015, also has 11 career interceptions, which is three shy of South Carolina’s career record. This is nothing but a boost for South Carolina’s defense, and it is also encouraging to see a promising young talent rebound from a scary neck injury.
Jamyest Williams needs to shine
It may sound like a lot, but Jamyest Williams will be a big reason why the Gamecocks succeed or not in 2017. He is the recruiting class’ top recruit, and will most likely start at corner or play the nickel back position. It is important for a player with such talent and popularity out of high school to contribute early and heavily for a rising team. Look for Williams to play an important role this season, and turn into one of the team’s best defenders over his time at South Carolina.