South Carolina is last in the SEC in total defense. It is next-to-last in total offense.
So things are looking bleak for the Gamecocks, right? As everyone in Columbia knows, the exact opposite is true. In fact, South Carolina (2-0 overall, 1-0 SEC) is starting to get at least regional respect and where once the Gamecocks’ ceiling looked to be a winning record now it seems it could be as high as contending for the division title into November.
So then, what to make of those awful statistics?
“Don’t get caught up in the stats,” was head coach Will Muschamp’s answer following a 31-13 win over Missouri.
That’s one way to handle it, but it’s also worth wondering if these numbers are aberrations or ominous signs for the future of the season. The first fact to consider is that South Carolina, unlike most teams in the conference, already have played two Power 5 opponents and more than that have played them away from home, so all of the Gamecocks numbers need to be framed by that fact.
A deeper look will tell you that there are more specific statistics that have allowed South Carolina to not only survive but thrive despite being so bad in the core numbers of yards gained (302.5 ypg) and yards allowed (463.5 ypg). One of those is turnover margin. The Gamecocks are second in the SEC at plus-4 and turnovers have played a huge role in each of their first two games.
Offensively, South Carolina is making the most of its yards. The Gamecocks are eighth in scoring in the SEC, thanks in part to two Deebo Samuel kickoff returns for touchdowns and in part to good field position provided by special teams success in each of the first two games.
Defensively, the Gamecocks are ninth in points allowed after having faced two good offensive football teams in N.C. State and Missouri. Despite giving up more than 900 yards in those two games, South Carolina has survived by playing good red zone defense.
Maybe the only answer to all these disparities is to listen to Muschamp for now and not pay much attention to the stats. Still, we’ll keep watching to see which side of these numbers tells the more accurate portrait of the Gamecocks.