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Playing in a division that includes the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida Gators, the South Carolina Gamecocks are going overlooked at offshore sportsbooks entering the 2019-20 season. Entering Will Muschamp’s fourth year at the helm, the Columbia natives are starting to get restless. Especially off a third straight bowl visit that resulted in an ugly 28-0 blanking at the hands of a much improved Virginia squad out of the ACC. With more competitive depth at every position on both sides of the ball, another season that results in another bowl game invite is highly likely. But is the program ready to compete with the best of the SEC and finally put an end to an ugly five-game losing streak against in-state rival Clemson?
With Jake Bentley back for his senior campaign, the offense looks to be in good shape. He enters the season off throwing for nearly 3,200 yards with a 61.9 percent completion rate and 27:14 TD/INT ratio. Though favorite target Deebo Samuel is now suiting up on Sundays, there’s still some solid talent in the returning corps returning with a possible Bryan Edwards breakout leading the charge. The backfield also looks to be in good shape with Rico Dowdle expected to land a bulk of the carries. The unit’s ability to make more hay on the ground ultimately depends on the retooled offensive line coming together to form a more cohesive and efficient attack. The key to the offense’s overall success will be showing an ability to once again run the football. If it does that, the Gamecocks will be in a great position to come out of nowhere and challenge for the SEC East title. The team went 4-0 when rushing for 200+ yards last season, and stands a perfect 7-0 when doing so under Muschamp’s watch.
Last year’s stop unit couldn’t force a turnover to save its life, and got destroyed against the run in allowing nearly 200 yards per game. If both areas aren’t shored up in 2019-20, a decent season will lie ahead for the Gamecocks; just not one that results in a trip to the SEC title game or possible New Year’s Six bowl game. The unit looks to be in great shape at the linebacker position where leading tackler TJ Brunson will be looked upon as the main anchor. South Carolina only mustered six total interceptions a season ago, and half where reeled in by the departed Rashad Fenton. More pressure from the front seven should see the defense improve upon those paltry forced turnover rates this season.
South Carolina looks to be in its best shape since the new coaching staff took over four seasons ago. Unfortunately, it’s highly possible it doesn’t amount to much of anything else than past year’s teams produced with the schedule nightmarish to say the least. Along with being forced to deal with the Gators and Bulldogs in divisional play, they get Alabama and Texas A&M out of the West and will also need to travel to Death Valley at the tail end of the season to run with defending champion Clemson. Linemakers at top rated sportsbook penciled the Cocks in for only 5.5 wins, but the betting markets look to bullish with heavy vigorish currently attached to the high side of that release. At +1600, South Carolina is expected to fight with Vanderbilt for the cellar of the SEC East. While no doubt a slap in the face, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility as tough the is schedule lied out before Bentley and company.