The most important thing we’ve learned so far about South Carolina’s football season doesn’t have anything to do with the Gamecocks.
The jury is still out on Will Muschamp’s third team. It has looked good while beating a very bad team (sorry Chants). It has looked bad while losing to a very good team. The truth about South Carolina is left to be sorted out somewhere between those two performances.
What is very clear now though is that the road to the end of the regular season looks tougher than it did two weeks ago. The Gamecocks (1-1, 0-1 SEC) take on Marshall on Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium (the good Lord and Hurricane Florence willing) before returning to SEC play for seven consecutive conference games.
The complexion of those games has changed because the perception of Kentucky, Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss has changed. The Wildcats (2-0, 1-0) just beat Florida for the first time in 32 years and have beaten South Carolina four years in a row. The Tigers (2-0) just beat a decent Wyoming team 40-13 behind 398 passing yards from Drew Lock. The Aggies (1-1) took No. 2 Clemson to the wire in a 28-26 loss and have found a play-making quarterback in Kellen Mond. And the Rebels (2-0) just scored 76 points and gained 646 yards against Southern Illinois. (The also surrendered 41 points and 629 yards so it might be fun to make the trip to Oxford, Miss., to see that game.)
South Carolina won nine football games last year so in the black-and-white logic of SEC program building, anything less than nine wins will be considered a step back. Getting to nine means the Gamecocks can lose only two more, and there appear to be more losable games on this schedule than there were in the offseason. ESPN.com’s Football Power Index rates South Carolina’s remaining strength of schedule the 37th-toughest in the country.
Muschamp, of course, will not address this issue. Every Week’s A Season, and all that, but it’s worth the fan base keeping an eye on how everyone else is doing. It’s going to be hard for South Carolina to prove anything against the Thundering Herd this week, but it will have plenty of chances to make points once the SEC season gets back in gear.