South Carolina appears to be poised for a big 2018 football season.
How big a season it will be might rest most heavily on these three games:
Georgia, Sept. 8 – It’s kind of hard to overstate this one. The Bulldogs are coming off a trip to the College Football Playoff title game, and they’re coming to Columbia. Kirby Smart’s team has to reload at several spots, especially in the backfield. The Gamecocks are already an 11-point underdog, but if USC can pull off the upset, it changes the whole course of the season.
At Kentucky, Sept. 29 – Of late, the thorn in South Carolina’s side. USC has lost four in a row to the Wildcats, despite USC having more wins in two of those seasons. UK knocked the Gamecocks off course early last season, and this year will host USC in the second of back-to-back September road trips.
At Florida, Nov. 10 – This spot could probably go to the Texas A&M game, but it’s at home and this is away from Williams-Brice. The Gators were simply bad last season, and are suddenly in the hands of a gifted gameday coach in Dan Mullen. It comes after a trip to Ole Miss and two weeks ahead of the Palmetto Bowl, and could all but lock in USC’s place in the conference standings.
Note: In a philosophical and emotional sense, the Clemson game is always of paramount importance, probably the most important game every single season. But at the end of the year, in Clemson, with USC having an uncertain schedule, it’s hard to consider it a fulcrum of the season. If USC rides into that game with a top-15 team and a New Year’s Six Bowl spot potentially in the balance, it could well be No. 1, but there’s a long way until then.