For a team that caught a break on the schedule this season, South Carolina isn’t feeling like it has been a cakewalk through the first month of the season.
The No. 12 Gamecocks, who are 2-1 and coming off a bye week, are the only team in the SEC to have played every game this season against an opponent from a BCS automatic qualifying conference. That trend will continue Saturday when South Carolina travels to Orlando, Fla., to play UCF.
“We’re ready to play all of them, and we’ll be ready to play down there, too, so it should be a heck of game,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. “It’s a big game. We try to recruit our guys to come here and play in big games, so we should like big games.”
The Gamecocks play 11 of their 12 regular-season games against teams from BCS conferences. The exception is a Nov. 23 game against Coastal Carolina, which is late for the type of game that usually serves as a chance for SEC teams to catch their breath during the grind of the season.
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“That’s just the way it is,” Spurrier said. “Occasionally, once a year we’ll get ahead of a team or two. Last year, we got ahead of East Carolina, UAB at the end so we were able to play a lot of guys. But that’s just the way it is.”
While South Carolina’s schedule doesn’t have many valleys, it also doesn’t have many peaks left. The Gamecocks play two more teams that are ranked by the Associated Press — No. 20 Florida and No. 3 Clemson.
Jeff Sagarin, whose computer ranking system is used in the BCS formula, ranks South Carolina’s schedule the eighth toughest in the nation.
The schedule disparity among SEC teams this early in the season makes the conference statistics mostly meaningless, Spurrier said.
“You have to look at everybody’s schedule. If they really wanted to honestly do the best team offense, defense, so forth, they should just use conference games. And better yet, they should just use Eastern Division games because we all play each other,” Spurrier said. “When you run up 700, 800 yards against those other teams and score 70 points, then you’re probably going to lead your conference where you’re at. So it’s sort of unrealistic, but that’s the way we do it. That’s why, as coaches, sometimes you know the schedule we have, we can’t be concerned with leading the conference in scoring and that kind of stuff.”
USC’s remaining schedule
Saturday – UCF, Orlando, Fla.
The Knights are 3-0 and coming off a win at Penn State.
Oct. 5 – Kentucky, Columbia
The Wildcats are 1-2 in coach Mark Stoops’ first season. Their win came against Miami (Ohio).
Oct. 12 – Arkansas, Fayetteville, Ark.
In Bret Beilema’s first season as coach, the Razorbacks are 3-1 and coming off a 28-24 loss to Rutgers.
Oct. 19 – Tennessee, Knoxville, Tenn.
The Volunteers are 2-2 and have been handled easily by Oregon and Florida.
Oct. 26 – Missouri, Columbia, Mo.
The only undefeated team in the SEC East has victories against Murray State, Toledo and Indiana.
Nov. 2 – Mississippi State, Columbia
The Bulldogs, who have been without quarterback Tyler Russell (concussion) for three games, are 2-2, with losses to Oklahoma State and Auburn.
Nov. 16 – No. 20 Florida, Columbia
The Gators are reeling. Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel was lost for the season because of a broken leg suffered in the Tennessee game, and it was learned Wednesday that starting defensive tackle Dominique Easley suffered a season-ending torn ACL during practice this week.
Nov. 23 – Coastal Carolina, Columbia
The Chanticleers are 4-0 and have wins against Furman and South Carolina State.
Nov. 30 – No. 3 Clemson, Columbia
The Tigers are 3-0 and probably will be undefeated when they arrive in Williams-Brice Stadium — if they can get past Florida State on Oct. 19 in Death Valley.