How USC's offense could look different under Bryan McClendon
In the spirit of all the Way Too Early college football predictions flooding the market these days, we decided to add our thoughts on South Carolina’s 2018 season almost eight months before it starts.
Coastal Carolina, Sept. 1
The Chanticleers are coming off a 3-9 season, and their only other trip to Williams-Brice Stadium ended in a 70-10 loss in 2013. This one won’t be a 60-point win (probably), but it’s a big win for a Gamecocks team that will be looking to prove its offense is improved. Moving on.
Pick: South Carolina 56, Coastal Carolina 17
Georgia, Sept. 8
The Bulldogs are back on the early part of the schedule, and that’s good news for South Carolina. Georgia still will be working to figure out how to replace a lot of very important defenders, plus running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. The less-good news for the Gamecocks is the Bulldogs have recruited well enough to replace their losses.
Pick: Georgia 28, South Carolina 20
Marshall, Sept. 15
This won’t be a walkover win, especially coming off what will be a physical game against the Bulldogs. The Thundering Herd finished 8-5 a year ago and beat a decent Colorado State game in a bowl game. The good news for South Carolina is junior Herd quarterback Chase Litton, who ranked fifth in school history in passing, decided to skip his senior season, so Marshall will be breaking in a new quarterback.
Pick: South Carolina 35, Marshall 13
At Vanderbilt, Sept. 22
Breaking news: Ralph Webb is not a Commodore anymore. It seems like Webb has been running the ball for Vanderbilt forever, and SEC defensive coordinators will be glad to see him gone. Commodores quarterback Kyle Shurmur, who had 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year, is back, but Vanderbilt still is Vanderbilt.
Pick: South Carolina 24, Vanderbilt 17
At Kentucky, Sept. 29
The optimism surrounding the Wildcats’ football team seems a long time ago, but it was only this time last year that people thought Kentucky was going to turn the corner. It hasn’t happened yet. Quarterback Stephen Johnson graduated, and one-time USC target and UK backup Drew Barker decided to transfer. Running back Benny Snell will lead the Kentucky offense, and the Gamecocks will beat the Wildcats for the first time since 2013.
Pick: South Carolina 28, Kentucky 27
Missouri, Oct. 6
A lot was made of Missouri’s six-game winning streak to end the regular season, but it’s tough to forget how bad the Tigers looked when South Carolina beat them 31-13 early in the season last year. Quarterback Drew Lock is back, and former Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley will be coordinating the offense. It will be Dooley’s first job running an offense, so it’s hard to know what kind of system he’ll run. By this point in the season, the Gamecocks will have it figured out, though.
Pick: South Carolina 30, Missouri 24
Texas A&M, Oct. 13
The Aggies are the biggest mystery on South Carolina’s 2018 schedule. Texas A&M fired Kevin Sumlin and broke the bank to lure Jimbo Fisher from Florida State. Fisher inherits plenty of talent, which has never been the Aggies issue. If Texas A&M can survive an early season schedule that includes Clemson and Alabama with its confidence intact, the Aggies will be trouble.
Pick: South Carolina 27, Texas A&M 24
Tennessee, Oct. 27
Whereas Fisher doesn’t have a lot of rebuilding to do with the Texas A&M program, first-year Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt has a lot of work in front of him. It’s hard to believe Pruitt will get the Volunteers back to being a legitimate threat in the SEC East in one year.
Pick: South Carolina 34, Tennessee 20
At Ole Miss, Nov. 3
This will be South Carolina’s first trip to Oxford, Miss., since 2008, and it’s sure to be a hot ticket for Gamecocks fans. It’s also pretty sure to be a win for South Carolina. The Rebels have an open date before this game, but that’s probably not enough to lift a team that will be replacing quarterback Shea Patterson and won’t be eligible for a bowl game again because of NCAA sanctions.
Pick: South Carolina 34, Ole Miss 17
At Florida, Nov. 10
The Swamp still is a tough place for South Carolina to play. The Gamecocks have won there twice, and even though those victories have come in their last four trips to Gainesville, Fla., (2014 and 2010), this will be a tough trip. Florida will have had plenty of time to get comfortable with first-year head coach Dan Mullen’s spread offense.
Pick: Florida 27, South Carolina 17
Chattanooga, Nov. 17
A 3-8 team a year ago, the Mocs will provide a good breather before the Clemson game.
Pick: South Carolina 42, Chattanooga 14
At Clemson, Nov. 24
The Tigers will be going for their fifth consecutive win in this series, and they probably will be favorites to do it. Clemson’s daunting defensive line will be back intact after its three juniors surprised everyone by deciding to return. The big question is who will be playing quarterback for the Tigers at this point. The bet here is on freshman Trevor Lawrence, who’s really good.
Pick: Clemson 30, South Carolina 28