Each year, more effort and more numbers are put toward the task of projecting results for the next season. What was once a fringe pursuit now includes the largest media outlet in sports, as ESPN’s Football Power Index grows more and more commonly brought up in broadcasts.
And if the still-evolving system is to be believed, South Carolina could be in line for another step forward in 2017.
The Gamecocks came in at No. 32 in the first edition of the preseason FPI after National Signing Day. If that came to pass, it would represent a substantial jump from the No. 72 finish after going 6-7 in 2016.
They system uses four seasons of performance in all three phases (most heavily weighted toward the most recent year), returning starters, recruiting rankings and head coaching tenure.
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South Carolina likely got a boost from returning 10 of 11 offensive starters and the vast majority of its production (the unit is projected to jump from 97th to 39th). The defense was No. 31 in the preseason numbers after finishing 2017 at No. 47.
That said, how a ranking translates to wins and losses relies on the schedule, which is tricky in USC’s case. The Gamecocks are behind three teams in their division (No. 13 Georgia, No. 15 Florida, No. 20 Tennessee). Opening day opponent N.C. State comes in at 22nd. Clemson comes in at No. 7.
USC has five games against opponents within 10 spots and seven against teams within 15 spot. That means the Gamecocks’ fate likely rests heavily on performance in toss-up games.