2018 Record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)
Going into head coach Will Muschamp's fourth season at the helm, there will be no shortage of challenges for the 2019 Gamecocks. It's a brutal schedule that includes road games at Georgia and Texas A&M, and home match-ups against Florida, Alabama and Clemson. With five potential top ten opponents on the slate, our feathered friends have the dubious honor of drawing the nation's toughest schedule. They should have plenty of chances to improve on their dismal 1-11 record vs ranked opponents under Muschamp.
Key Threats for Clemson:
After being dominated by the Tigers defense in their two previous meetings, UofSC came into Death Valley last November and lit up one of the nation's best defensive units. Jake Bentley threw for more than 500 yards and put up 35 points in the process. They did it with a mixture of gimmicky formations, tempo, and a well executed gameplan. Give their offensive coaches credit, they put together a well designed plan.
Deebo Samuel is gone but seven starters return on the offensive side. Bryan Edwards will try and step into the role of the number one receiver, while Shi Smith and OrTre Smith are both back as well.
The weak link of this offense in 2018 was the running game. After failing to earn much playing time, Ty'son Williams decided to transfer. The Gamecocks recently upgraded at the position by adding former Tigers RB Tavien Feaster as a grad transfer. He'll only have a month to learn the system but he and Rico Dowdle should provide a good 1-2 punch out of the backfield if the guys up front can give them some room to run.
This offense has the potential to be pretty effective but as with any team, it starts and stops up front. All eyes will be on Sadarius Hutcherson in camp as moves over from RG to LT. A smooth transition would be a big step in the right direction.
On defense, the Gamecocks dealt with a multitude of injuries in 2018. They have a little more depth heading into this season but one key will be keeping guys healthy.
The coaching staff seems to really like the front four. There's some talent in the secondary as well. The linebackers must be better in 2019, particularly against the run.
ESPN's FPI has the Gamecocks as the Tigers biggest threat on the schedule. It gives UofSC a 14.9% chance of knocking off the defending champs. Texas A&M is ranked seven spots ahead of the Gamecocks in the preseason FPI, but is given just a 12% chance of pulling the upset.
This South Carolina program is getting better under Will Muschamp. They're slowly building some quality depth and have talent at the skill positions. There's still a sizable talent gap between the two programs however.
The Tigers will go into this one looking to win their sixth straight over their instate rival. It's a feat that has been accomplished just once in this long, storied rivalry when Clemson won seven straight back in the 1930's.
There's no position on the field in which the Gamecocks have an edge in talent. That 14.9% chance the FPI says UofSC has to pull off the win feels about right. It is a rivalry game in Wlliams-Brice Stadium, so even 20% might be reasonable. Either way, the Tigers will likely go into this one a double-digit road favorites.