South Carolina Gamecocks
Head Coach: Will Muschamp
2018 Record: 7-6, 4-4 Conference
Bowl: 0-28 loss to Virginia at Belk Bowl
O/U 5.5 wins (O -165, U +135)
Will Muschamp has a team he is fond of, but its schedule is a bit on the demanding side this season. The team will be competitive in the SEC, and it finished 4-4 last season in Conference play. The roster just hardly stacks up to the likes of Alabama and Georgia, and there is no getting around that when it comes to “winning games on paper.” Muschamp is hoping the actual translation to field play looks a little different, after having fared 22-17 overall his first three seasons at South Carolina.
The team has gone .500 in SEC play over that span (12-12), but it is just 1-11 against AP ranked opponents under Muschamp and it seems the Gamecocks really just have a lack of talent when it comes to stacking up with the big dogs in the SEC or in other conferences.
Jake Bentley has recorded 7,385 passing yards and 54 touchdowns in his first three seasons at South Carolina (32 starts). He has, however, also launched 30 picks and fared exceptionally poorly against ranked teams. The lone exception to that rule was when Bentley lit up Clemson for 510 yards and five touchdowns—but the Gamecocks lost that game, as well.
Turnovers were a major problem for South Carolina last year, too. The team should have been plus-0.6 based on the ratio of interceptions and passes broken up, but it was actually negative-5.6. That turnover difference was the worst in the SEC, and Muschamp cited that as the No. 1 area the team must improve in (perhaps that is too obvious).
At WR, the Gamecocks lost Deebo Samuel to the NFL, and it now has to find its new No. 1 option. Bryan Edwards enters his senior season with a career average of 13.7 yards-per-catch, and he should be the de facto choice as the primary receiver. Shi Smith will be a junior this year, and he will be the No. 2 wide out. South Carolina ideally will strive to have at least six receivers to rotate through every game, so keeping fresh bodies and hands on the field is a priority for the Gamecocks.
The running back position lacks experience in a major way, though. The Gamecocks have failed to finish any higher than 12th of 14 in the SEC over Muschamp’s three seasons when it comes to the rushing game. Ty’Son Williams transferred out of the program in 2018, and senior Rico Dowdle will be the primary back now. He averaged 5.2 yards-per-carry over his career, but he was held back in spring with hamstring issues.
The defensive line will be a strength for SC. Cornerback is very strong, too, with Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu being two of the better CBs in the SEC. Javon Kinlaw is lightning quick off of the snap at defensive tackle, and he will angle to improve his NFL prospects this year in his senior season. DJ Wonnum missed a lot of last year with ankle injuries, but he is a pass rusher capable of stirring major disruptions.
TJ Brunson returns in the middle, but he had a lot of struggles last year most of which were surprising. He is hoping to rebound this year. At 6’1” and 6’4” Horn and Mukuamu will disrupt a lot of passes and snag their fair share of interceptions. Their length will be a problem for opposing receivers.
Parker White was placed on scholarship in the spring, and the junior placekicker is matched by senior punter Joseph Charlton. The kicking will be very good. Replacing Samuel on returns will be far more difficult.
Despite a 7-6 season a year ago and a tougher schedule, Muschamp is still optimistic about increasing the Gamecocks’ win total. However, at the end of the season, this will still be a team trying to figure out a way to match up with its top SEC foes, something that has eluded it entirely. Winning an extra game against a ranked opponent would be another feather in its cap.
Prediction: 7 wins (over)