Early kickoffs are a divisive topic among many football fans: Some love having time after the game to enjoy the evening, others want more time for tailgating.
But in South Carolina’s locker room, there’s no debate about it — the Gamecocks and Will Muschamp love early game times.
And they don’t get much earlier than this Saturday’s contest at Ole Miss, which will start at noon in Columbia but 11 a.m. in Oxford, where the game is taking place. It will be USC’s first morning kickoff since 2015.
In seven noon games through Muschamp’s first two and a half seasons, USC has a 6-1 record, compared to 2-2 after dark, and the reason for that is the way South Carolina prepares every day, players said.
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“We were just saying the other day, anytime we have an early kickoff, we feel like that benefits us, because we’re always up in the morning, early morning practices,” junior running back Ty’Son Williams said.
Specifically, the day for USC begins well before sunrise, senior buck Bryson Allen-Williams said. That’s a change Muschamp instituted after being hired in late 2015, as Steve Spurrier started practices later in the day.
“We had to be in the building at 5:55 (a.m.) today, 6 o’clock, so we’re always up early, ready to go,” Allen-Williams explained. “You have to have everything ready, especially with a team like this that’s very explosive, that comes out the gate trying to go with the deep ball and run the ball down your throat, you gotta be ready to play early Saturday morning.”
But while South Carolina may like getting started early in the day, the team’s performance early in games has been an area of concern as of late — outside of the season opener against Coastal Carolina, the Gamecocks have been outscored by opponents 108-56 in the first half.
By contrast, Ole Miss has one of the most explosive, efficient offenses in college football, averaging nearly 7.7 yards per play. The concern for USC is not getting buried early by the Rebels and having to dig out of a large hole.
In that regard, the early start time could negate the advantage of Mississippi’s fast-moving, dangerous offense, junior quarterback Jake Bentley said
“I definitely think it is an advantage for us,” Bentley said. “We’re up early every day coming here and having to turn our minds on very early and to be locked in very early.”
And even though Muschamp made it clear he doesn’t consider Saturday’s game a true morning game — “It’s at noon, we’re on our clocks,” he said — he still believes the earlier a game starts the better it is for his teams.
“Our guys are in the building at 6 a.m., while y’all are still sleeping. They’re having breakfast at 6, we have meetings start at 7, I had a senior leadership group meeting at 6:45 this morning,” Muschamp said. “Everybody’s early, everybody’s there, everybody’s getting ready to go. That’s what we do every single day. So the best feeling I have on game day for a noon kick is when we’re in pregame meal and there’s a lot of noise, because our guys are up and they’re ready to go. But we’re like that every day, so that’s a good thing, that’s an advantage we should have.”