Josh Kendall

Suddenly, USC’s football schedule looks very different

It’s still early, but in college football, it’s never too early for fans to start making speculations based on what they’ve seen, and what we’ve seen so far could change the complexion of South Carolina’s season.

This is a Gamecock-centric look, so we’ll only discuss the conference teams who are on South Carolina’s regular season schedule. That also will save us having to talk about Alabama’s dismantling of Florida State.

Missouri (Saturday in Columbia, Mo.)

The Tigers gained 809 yards and gave up 471 against Missouri State, meaning they looked like everyone expected them to look – great offense, no defense. Saturday’s game against South Carolina will start at 7 p.m. and might feature 100 points. Honestly, it might.

Kentucky (Sept. 16, Williams-Brice Stadium)

The Wildcats beat Southern Miss 24-17. That’s not a very impressive score, but it’s progress considering Kentucky lost to the Golden Eagles last year. Standout tailback Benny Snell was held to 67 yards on 20 carries, which is not a good sign for the Cats.

Texas A&M (Sept. 30, College Station, Texas)

The Aggies team that ran all over UCLA to build a 44-10 lead Sunday night looked like it would bury the Gamecocks. The Texas A&M team that coughed up that 34-point lead and lost 45-44 might never recover. If it doesn’t, the Gamecocks could steal a win here.

Arkansas (Oct. 7, Williams-Brice Stadium)

There’s not much to learn from a 49-7 win over Florida A&M. The Razorbacks were methodical but didn’t prove much. They did average 5.2 yards per carry, which is good but consider the competition.

Tennessee (Oct. 14, Knoxville, Tenn.)

The Volunteers beat Georgia Tech 42-41 in double overtime when a Yellow Jackets failed on a two-point converstion attempt. Georgia Tech rushed for 535 yards and gained 655 overall, so Tennessee still has some work to do on defense.

Vanderbilt (Oct. 28, Williams-Brice Stadium)

A 28-6 win over Middle Tennessee State doesn’t look like much, but Middle Tennessee State has been on the ascent and could win Conference USA this year. This is the type of game that historical Vanderbilt would have struggled mightily in, so taking care of business is a good sign.

Georgia (Nov. 4, Athens, Ga.)

The biggest news coming out of a 31-9 win over Appalachian State is that starting quarterback and former five-star recruit, sophomore Jacob Eason, suffered a sprained LCL that knocked him out of the game and will keep him out of this week’s game against Notre Dame. The Bulldogs turned to freshman four-star recruit Jake Fromm, who finished 10-of-15 for 143 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. If Eason can’t return and Fromm isn’t up to the task, the Bulldogs will be a different team.

Florida (Nov. 11, Williams-Brice Stadium)

The Gators looked dreadful, gaining only 192 yards. Florida’s only two touchdowns were interception returns, and the Gators still have a quarterback problem. Freshman Feleipe Franks started but was pulled and replaced by transfer Malik Zaire. They combined for 181 yards in the air.

In conclusion

The weekend’s results, including South Carolina’s 35-28 upset of N.C. State, suggest the Gamecocks might finish higher than fourth in the SEC East, which was their projected finished at SEC media days. If nothing else, South Carolina looks better than Florida, which must get its offense fixed quickly or risk a precipitous fall from SEC East champion to bottom half of the league, and Georgia and Texas A&M (two of the toughest remaining games on the schedule) have big questions to answer.