South Carolina football has six regular season games left. Six games to perhaps salvage what has been a rocky 3-3 season, or six games to leave USC fans with more of the unease they had in the first half.
Three predictions for the rest of the year:
The defense rebounds
This group just hasn’t been good against the run and had inopportune lapses against the pass. It’s also had young players at each level, been forced to dig deep at safety and faced off against some groups that don’t allow much room for error. In the end, it’s a group with a good bit of talent, coached by the duo of Will Muschamp and Travaris Robinson. If they can raise the level of tackling a bit, stay away from the big mistakes and keep things fundamentally sound against the run, we should see a unit that keeps the team in games a few ticks better than it did against Texas A&M.
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Deebo Samuel gets on track
He came into 2018 with All-American-type hype. Through six games, he’s not yet fully shaken loose. Samuel was a threat through the air, on the ground and as a returner. For the season, he’s been a consistent presence in the offense, but not a game-breaker. But there have been moments when he breaks past someone deep, or gets enough space, snatches the ball and just outruns people. He hit 88 yards in his last two games. Expect him to break more big plays, finish some of those fade balls for touchdowns and have at least three 100-yard games before the season is finished.
The Gamecocks eke out a bowl game
With USC struggling, Kentucky’s sudden rise and Texas A&M, Florida and maybe Tennessee playing well with new coaches, this proposition might be a challenging one. USC needs at least three more wins. Florida seems like a long shot, Clemson a very long shot. The FCS game and whoever gets to come to Williams-Brice for the rescheduled 12th game should be easy wins. That leaves the Volunteers, coming off an upset of Auburn, and Ole Miss, a team with a great offense and bad defense, as a must-split, minimum. South Carolina should do that, maybe take both. It won’t make up for some of the disappointment after talk of a nine-win regular season, but if the level of play improves, it will at least be a response to early struggles.