The tradition is a common one around SEC football: Spend the game before rivalry week beating up on an FCS or small-conference opponent.
South Carolina has done plenty of that for most of the past decade, getting in tune-ups before Clemson. That will change next season.
The future schedules section of the team’s media guide lists a game against FCS Charleston Southern, previously scheduled for that Nov. 23 weekend, as moved to Sept. 7. With a neutral site opener against North Carolina, and a Nov. 9 game against Appalachian State, it means USC will almost assuredly close the season with three consecutive weeks of power conference opponents (or two with a bye).
And that’s a big departure from previous seasons.
South Carolina has played small schools the week before Clemson dating back to 2009. All but two have been FCS opponents, often in-state ones. Mixed in was also a game against Troy (2010) and a South Alabama program in only its sixth year of existence in 2014. USC notably lost to The Citadel in 2015.
It could also mean the return of something older Gamecocks fans know well.
The end of the season used to be reserved for the “Orange Crush,” a gauntlet of Tennessee, Florida and Clemson that ended every season from 1993-2000. For most of the 2000s, Arkansas was an opponent in the weeks leading up to the Clemson finale.
The construction of the schedule makes it possible for a return of the “Orange Crush,” though the SEC part of the schedule won’t be set until sometime during the 2018 season. In conference play USC will host Alabama, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Florida, while playing at Missouri, at Texas A&M, at Tennessee and at Georgia.
Charleston Southern is coming off a 6-5 season, which followed a 2016 campaign that opened with a scandal that saw more than 30 players suspended.
2019 USC games with currently set dates
08/31 North Carolina (in Charlotte)
09/07 Charleston Southern
11/09 Appalachian State