ESPN released its first Football Power Index rankings for the 2019 season, with projected results for every team’s games based on 10,000 simulations of the rest of the season using FPI, results to date and the remaining schedule.
And just like most observers, FPI thinks South Carolina has a good team this year but that just might not translate into wins.
The Gamecocks start the preseason ranked No. 18 in the country by FPI, which pegs them as 12.3 points above average. But with the nation’s toughest strength of schedule, Carolina is only projected to win 6.1 games, the lowest total of any team in the top 40.
The good news for USC fans is that the index is projecting five of those wins as extremely likely — the Gamecocks are given a 70% chance or better of beating North Carolina, Charleston Southern, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Appalachian State.
Unsurprisingly, FCS foe Charleston Southern is considered the most likely win on South Carolina’s schedule — the Gamecocks are projected to have a 99.3% chance of beating the Buccaneers.
On the other hand, there’s a sharp dropoff after those five projected wins. Will Muschamp’s squad is given a 74.5% chance to beat Kentucky, and then the next highest percentage is 42.3% against Florida at home.
Against Muschamp’s former team, FPI actually likes South Carolina’s odds. Despite Florida checking in at No. 8 in with 8.3 projected wins, it’s the closest the Gamecocks have to a toss-up. Other projection models have Florida as a far more certain favorite.
All told, FPI has South Carolina stealing at least one win against the likes of the Gators, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama and Clemson. But as of right now, the Gamecocks aren’t favored in any of those matchups.
Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are the consensus top three teams in the country, and FPI agrees — they all are projected to have at least a 79.9 percent chance of beating South Carolina, with Clemson having the best odds at 85.1%.
Of the projected losses, only Missouri ranks behind Carolina in FPI at No. 19, but the Tigers will have the homefield advantage when the two teams meet and a 59% chance of winning.
If ESPN’s numbers are accurate, South Carolina fans will likely be relieved to finally beat Kentucky and snap a five-year losing streak to the Wildcats. Conversely, Muschamp has never lost to Tennessee, pulling off three consecutive wins over the Volunteers, but FPI gives the Gamecocks just a 37% chance of continuing that dominance.
South Carolina opens its season on Aug. 31 in Charlotte against North Carolina in the Tar Heels’ first game back under Hall of Fame coach Mack Brown. The Gamecocks, who have gone head-to-head with UNC on the recruiting trail as of late, are the comfortable favorites according to FPI, with a 77.1% chance of winning.
ESPN FPI’S SOUTH CAROLINA PROJECTIONS
North Carolina — 77.1% chance of USC winning
Charleston Southern — 99.3%
Alabama — 17.5%
Missouri — 41.0%
Kentucky — 74.5%
Georgia — 20.1%
Florida — 42.3%
Tennessee — 37.0%
Vanderbilt — 77.2%
Appalachian State — 85.8%
Texas A&M — 26.2%
Clemson — 14.9%
Home games in bold
Neutral site games in italics