USC Gamecocks Football

Gamecocks starting a season in Atlanta or Orlando? Will Muschamp would be for it

Will Muschamp talks South Carolina’s draft prospects

South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp talks about the coming NFL draft, Deebo Samuel and what it could mean for USC.
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South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp talks about the coming NFL draft, Deebo Samuel and what it could mean for USC.

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp opened things up by directing the scheduling questions to Athletics Director Ray Tanner along with a little compassion.

Tanner and deputy AD Charles Waddell have a big hand in building the Gamecocks’ football schedule, never an easy task.

Then Muschamp dug into a more meaty topic: getting a chance to start the season in Atlanta — or perhaps somewhere else.

“We’re trying to be very aggressive with our scheduling,” Muschamp said at Wednesday’s Spurs Up Tour stop in Columbia. “We are very aggressive in talking with Gary Stokan over in Atlanta as far as having an opportunity to open in Atlanta. We think that’s very important for us and gives us tremendous recruiting exposure in the Atlanta area.”

Stokan is the president of the Peach Bowl, which also runs the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. That high-profile contest has featured the likes of Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee in recent years. The matchups are set there for every year through 2024 (with 2023 still to be decided).

At this point, South Carolina’s 2019 schedule looks plenty aggressive, with Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Texas A&M among 10 total Power 5 conference teams on the docket.

The Gamecocks are set for a neutral site opener in 2019 in Charlotte, the same place they opened in 2017. USC has started the season against an SEC team or in Bank of America Stadium five years in a row.

Beyond that, Muschamp said an even longer trip was at least brought up, starting the season more than six hours to the South.

“We even talked about, I want to say it was two years ago, playing a game down there in Orlando, a possibility for that to open the season,” Muschamp said. “We’re certainly open to that.”

Orlando has twice hosted neutral site opening games, Ole Miss-Florida State in 2016 and Alabama-Louisville in 2018. Miami and Florida are set to play in the Camping World Kickoff game this season.

South Carolina’s schedule has the quirk of the Clemson game, which creates an every-other-year arrangement when it comes to these games and getting seven home games. Each of the three years that open in Charlotte end with the Tigers in Columbia.

Muschamp warned that there are always pitfalls, and the possibility the SEC could follow the Big Ten, Big 12 and Pac 12 in going to nine conference games.

But if it’s possible and the team can jostle its way to the front, he’d like to see a season open in the heart of the Peach State.

“Obviously there’s a lot of people vying for that opportunity,” Muschamp said. “But coach [Tanner] and I have talked numerous times about having that opportunity.

“We would welcome it obviously.”

South Carolina 2019 schedule

Aug. 31 — North Carolina (2-9 last season)*

Sept. 7 — Charleston Southern (5-6)

Sept. 14 — Alabama (14-1)

Sept. 21 — at Missouri (8-5)

Sept. 28 — Kentucky (10-3)

Oct. 12 — at Georgia (11-3)

Oct. 19 — Florida (10-3)

Oct. 26 — at Tennessee (5-7)

Nov. 2 — Vanderbilt (6-7)

Nov. 9 — Appalachian State (11-2)

Nov. 16 — at Texas A&M (9-4)

Nov. 30 — Clemson (15-0)

*in Charlotte