We're finally there. The long, interminably boring days without football are over. I must admit I'm fairly excited to see the Gamecocks take the field in Charlotte Sunday morning. Well, I'm always excited prior to the South Carolina football season beginning, but I think my anticipation rivals the levels last experienced circa August 28, 2014. Every year around this time every team in college football had 100% participation in off-season workouts and the best summer camp ever. The whole team has really bought-in, and they spend a lot more time just hanging out with each other, you know?
With the 2017 version of the Gamecocks, I'm actually kind of buying all the off-season talk. Bolstered by some key new additions and the return of Skai Moore, the defense should be better (Muschamp's Defenses are almost always better in his 2nd year). We're dangerously thin across the board here, though, and can't tolerate any significant injuries to the starting line-up early in the season. I think we'll really shine on offense, however. Jake Bentley's increased experience and knowledge will allow a lot more formations and creativity. The group of WRs and TEs is as deep as it has probably ever been, and our Right Guard will no longer be playing with a broken leg. I think a lot of people are really underestimating how potent our offense will be this year. This is obviously contingent on Bentley staying healthy.
The comment I've run into many times in recent weeks, and one that I agree with, is that this pre-season feels a lot like the one heading into the 2000 season. Coming off a losing season, the Gamecocks are widely expected to improve, but aren't really projected to win any against some of the more established teams on the schedule. Vegas predicts 5.5 wins for this team. A lot of that has to do with the expectation that most of the SEC East teams will be improved as well. I agree with that, but given the youth on the field last year, I think South Carolina sees higher than average improvement, and overall has a higher ceiling with the skill players on offense.
Game by Game Predictions
Here's how I see the season playing out:
- North Carolina State - W
- @ Missouri - W
- Kentucky - W
- Louisiana Tech - W
- @ Texas A&M - L
- Arkansas - W
- @ Tennessee - L
- Vanderbilt - W
- @ Georgia - L
- Florida - W
- Wofford - W
- Clemson - L
So, I've got us at 8-4 (5-3 SEC). I always have difficulty projecting our record prior to the seasonWe struggled mightily away from Columbia last year, and until proven otherwise I'm not confident in the Gamecocks going anywhere that seats more than 60,000 and coming back with a win. I wish we had Georgia the 2nd game of the season like in the good old days, as I think they will struggle a bit early on until they bench Eason in favor of Fromm. I think Florida will have a tough season, as Muschamp's defensive players are no longer around and 10% of the roster seems to have been busy committing fraud against the university over the summer. The first game against N.C. State is critically important, as if we lose that one, I think 6 wins would begin to look like a challenge.
All, some, or none of this will happen:
- Skai Moore will lead the team in tackles, making him the first player in program history to do so for 4 years, and one of few players in college football history to accomplish that feat. He will also snag 4 interceptions, making him the South Carolina career record holder.
- Jake Bentley will throw for 3,500 yards and have a QBR of 155 for the season. He will be 2nd-team All-SEC quarterback.
- Deebo Samuel will have 1,000 receiving yards, 250 rushing yards, 600 return yards, and 15 total TDs. He will be a consensus 1st-team All-SEC player in as both a receiver and all-purpose player.
- Hayden Hurst will break his own receptions and receiving yards record for a tight-end.
- Bryan Edwards will have 800 receiving yards and 8 TDs.
- South Carolina will have two players rush for over 750 yards.
- Bryson Allen-Williams will have 5 sacks with 15 TFL.
- South Carolina will finish between 6th and 8th in the SEC in Scoring Defense. They will be in the Top 4 for generating turnovers.
- The Gamecocks will finish 2nd in the SEC East.
- South Carolina's Offense will be 4th best in the SEC.
- Offensive MVP: Jake Bentley
- Offensive Breakout Player: Jacob August
- Best Offensive Newcomer: Ty'Son Williams
- Most Improved Offensive Player: Cory Helms
- Defensive MVP: Skai Moore
- Defensive Breakout Player: D.J. Wonnum
- Best Defensive Newcomer: Jamyest Williams
- Most Improved Defensive Player: D.J. Smith
That's all I've got. Looking forward to finally seeing the 2017 Gamecocks take the field in about 17 hours.