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Aug. 29, Williams-Brice Stadium
Here are the reasons for concern: The Tar Heels averaged 74.8 plays per game last year. They have a potential All-America offensive tackle in James Hurst who can maybe slow down Jadeveon Clowney by himself. They have a senior quarterback in Bryn Renner who folks are raving about. They will be fired up entering Larry Fedora’s second season. Here is the reason for optimism: South Carolina is better.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 28, Tar Heels 15
Sept. 7, Athens, Ga.
South Carolina is on an unprecedented three-game winning streak against the Bulldogs. Another win would match the total number of victories the Gamecocks posted against Georgia from 1908 until 1978, so times are good for USC in this rivalry. The issue for South Carolina this year is the Gamecocks have young linebackers, and the Bulldogs have maybe the SEC’s best back in Todd Gurley and a slew of offensive linemen.
PREDICTION: Bulldogs 20, Gamecocks 17
Sept. 14, Williams-Brice Stadium
James Franklin’s Commodores gave South Carolina all it wanted a year ago. However, Connor Shaw was injured in that game. Dylan Thompson has not played as poorly since. The game was in Nashville. Steve Spurrier has lauded his team’s ability to win close games. This will not be one.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 35, Vanderbilt 17
Sept. 28, Orlando, Fla.
There will be a culture shock for the Gamecocks when they trot onto the Bright House Networks Stadium Field in front of a crowd of fewer than 50,000 fans. Teams sometimes don’t react well to those environments. If South Carolina starts slow, the Knights and QB Blake Bortles can and will stay close. If the Gamecocks open strong, it’ll be over quickly.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 30, Knights 20
Oct. 5, Williams-Brice Stadium
The Wildcats have a first-year head coach in Mark Stoops and a hotshot young offensive coordinator in Neal Brown, 33. The last time South Carolina faced Stoops, he was Florida State’s defensive coordinator, and Stoops won 26-17. The experience of the North Carolina game will help Lorenzo Ward prepare the defense. Kentucky will beat somebody it shouldn’t this year, but it won’t be this day.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 24, Wildcats 20
Oct. 12, Fayetteville, Ark.
This game is trouble. For starters, South Carolina has only won twice in Fayetteville, the last time being 2005. Then there’s the matter of Bret Bielema. The former Wisconsin coach is installing a smash-mouth style with the Razorbacks, and he’s going to be thirsting for a signature win on a schedule that doesn’t offer a ton of opportunities. At home, this is one.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 17, Razorbacks 16
Oct. 19, Knoxville, Tenn.
Everybody wearing Volunteer Orange loves Butch Jones right now, but it doesn’t change the fact he has the toughest rebuilding job of any of the first-year SEC coaches. Tennessee has a talent deficit to overcome, and that doesn’t happen in one year. South Carolina has won three in a row and four of five in this rivalry.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 38, Volunteers 27
Oct. 26, Columbia, Mo.
The grind. The grind. The grind. The grind is the problem here. South Carolina will be making its third road trip in three weeks and two of those, to Arkansas and to Columbia, Mo., are in the top three in terms of miles to travel. The Gamecocks have never played at Missouri against coach Gary Pinkel’s team. There is a lot of potential for a stubbed toe.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 24, Tigers 17
Nov. 2, Williams-Brice Stadium
Most of the Bulldogs’ heavy lifting comes after this game as they travel to Texas A&M, host Alabama, travel to Arkansas and host Ole Miss in the next four weeks. Those are the games in which Dan Mullen’s future will be decided, so none of the Mississippi State fans will mind much when he loses this one.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 37, Bulldogs 18
Nov. 16, Williams-Brice Stadium
The Gamecocks can’t play as poorly as they did against QB Jeff Driskel and the Gators in 2012, right? Motivation won’t be a problem. All Steve Spurrier has to do is turn on a few minutes of tape from that game to get the troops ready to play. On top of that, South Carolina could be playing for the SEC East title.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 21, Gators 9
Nov. 23, Williams-Brice Stadium
Can we start talking about the Clemson game yet? The most interesting part of this week will be the stories about Coastal head coach Joe Moglia, who was a successful businessman and still is the chairman of the board of directors at TD Ameritrade. He is entering his second season in Conway.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 45, Chanticleers 17
Nov. 30, Williams-Brice Stadium
Five in a row is within reach. The current four-game winning streak already ties the best in Gamecocks history. The Jadeveon Clowney- Tajh Boyd “scared” storyline will dominate the week, and Boyd has one more chance to prove Clowney wrong and beat the Gamecocks before he and Clowney head to the NFL.
PREDICTION: Gamecocks 30, Tigers 29
FINAL REGULAR SEASON RECORD: 11-1