South Carolina enters the home stretch of its 2017 football regular season in better shape than most people thought it would be at this point. The Gamecocks are 5-2 overall and 3-2 in the SEC, tied for third in the Eastern Division.
When the season started, the second half of South Carolina’s season looked more daunting than it does now. With Vanderbilt looking dead in the water and Florida struggling, the Gamecocks path to bowl eligibility and beyond looks much different than it did in August.
South Carolina will face the Commodores (3-4, 0-4 SEC) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium, and head coach Will Muschamp doesn’t want to look past that game, he said Sunday.
“Every week is a season,” Muschamp said. “Our complete and total focus is on Vanderbilt. Nothing else matters at this point.”
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That doesn’t mean we can’t look ahead, though, so here’s our take on the five games remaining on the schedule, along with South Carolina’s chances of winning each, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.
Vanderbilt, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Chance of winning: 83.5 percent
What do the Commodores have in common with the last two SEC teams South Carolina has beaten? A terrible run defense. Vanderbilt is 12th in the league in rushing defense, allowing 242.6 yards per game. That’s one spot better than Tennessee and two spots worse than Arkansas, both teams the Gamecocks beat in the last three weeks. A month ago, the Commodores were 3-0 and people were beginning to wonder if they were going to make noise in the SEC. In the four games since, they are 0-4 and have lost by a combined score of 199-73.
At Georgia (7-0, 4-0), Nov. 4
Chance of winning: 12.4 percent
This is the toughest game left on the Gamecocks schedule according to ESPN’s numbers. South Carolina last won in Athens in 2011, and this looks like the best team the Bulldogs have had in a while. The challenge is going to be two-fold. First, a USC rushing defense that currently is ranked seventh in the SEC will have to face the conference’s second-best rushing attack (282.9 yards per game by the Bulldogs). Second, South Carolina will be facing the conference’s second-stingiest defense. Georgia allows 252.6 yards per game, the fewest of any team the Gamecocks have played.
Florida (3-3, 3-2), Nov. 11
Chance of winning: 58 percent
The Gators are the two-time defending SEC East champions, but look to be regressing. Florida has lost to a Michigan team that looks more and more flawed as the season goes on, LSU and Texas A&M. Being in the same conference with Tennessee and Vanderbilt is the only thing saving the Gators from being dead last in the SEC in scoring. As it is, they are 12th with 23.7 points per game, and head coach Jim McIlwain was hired to revive Florida’s offense. The Gators have beaten South Carolina in their last two meetings, but the series is 4-3 in favor of the Gamecocks in the last seven meetings.
Wofford (6-1), Nov. 18
Chance of winning: 96.4 percent
This is a traditionally scary game for South Carolina fans, who remember not-so-easy wins against the Terriers in 2012 (24-7), 2008 (23-13) and 2006 (27-20), and this is a good Wofford team. The Terriers just lost their first game of the season, a 24-21 defeat at the hands of Samford. Wofford is 6-1 and will end the regular season with its game against South Carolina. The Terriers are sixth in the FCS in rushing with 279.1 yards per game, and preparing for the option is never a fun task for defensive coordinators.
Clemson (6-1), Nov. 25
Chance of winning: 17.9 percent
Muschamp probably won’t say it publicly, but you can be sure he will spend this week of preparation reminding his team of last year’s 56-7 loss to the Tigers, who were on their way to the national championship. The question this year is what kind of shape will Clemson be in when it comes to Williams-Brice. The Tigers looked very much like CFB Playoff contenders until an injury to quarterback Kelly Bryant and a 27-24 loss to Syracuse on Oct. 13. Clemson rallied strongly from its one loss last year behind quarterback Deshaun Watson. Now the Tigers will see if they can do that behind Bryant, whenever they get Bryant back from injury.