Those who know me best know that I can’t stand talking about college football after the National Championship game. However, with the release of the South Carolina Gamecocks’ 2011 football schedule, it seems warranted.
On paper, some might say that the Gamecocks have one of the easier schedules that they have had in recent memory. Look at it a little closer, and it is clear the road to return to the SEC Championship Game is not as easy.
The 2011 schedule for the Gamecocks is broken down into different segments. The Gamecocks have stretches of travelling or playing at Williams-Brice Stadium.
South Carolina starts the season on the road its first two weeks. A non-conference game in Charlotte against East Carolina will not be an easy season-opener, compared to previous seasons. While the Pirates do not have the best defense, a win over the Gamecocks would be their equivalent of winning a national title.
The second week has the Gamecocks playing in their first conference game, travelling to Athens, Georgia to take on the Bulldogs. Last season was an easy win, this season it will be a little tougher. Georgia QB Aaron Murray has much more confidence after a rough game last year against South Carolina.
The Gamecocks will then start a stretch of four consecutive home games. The first is a tough non-conference game against Navy. Gamecocks fans do not have to be reminded of the close wins against teams who run the option, like the Midshipmen.
This is followed up by three conference games. Vanderbilt is under another new head coach, and should be an easy game for South Carolina.
Next up is Auburn. Auburn is losing a lot of key players from its 2011 National Championship team. It will be interesting to see what Auburn will look like, and if Gene Chizik will bring a competitive team to the table.
The fourth home game in this stretch will be against Kentucky. Last season, Kentucky came back in the 4th quarter to defeat a then 10th-ranked Gamecock team. The Gamecocks will try to avenge last season’s loss, but the Wildcats always bring a tough fight.
The next three games will be the tests for the Gamecocks, which will see them travel to Starkville, Knoxville, and Fayetteville in a four-week stretch. All three of these teams are going to be early season favorites in their respected divisions, and could be the difference between a great season and a good season for South Carolina.
Finally, the Gamecocks will end with three home games. Florida will come in with a new coach, Will Muschamp, and an adjustment period for the Gators will be expected.
The schedule once again lobs South Carolina a curveball when The Citadel goes to Williams-Brice Stadium. The last time South Carolina played The Citadel, they lost.
The season wraps up the same way it has for many years, with its annual game against Clemson. Clemson will be trying to play for Dabo Swinney’s job, if he is still there.
On paper, it looks easy. However, travel will prove the difference for South Carolina this season. Inability to win on the road could prove detrimental to the Gamecocks attempt to return to Atlanta.
We will go much more in-depth as the 2011 season approaches as to who will win, and if the Gamecocks can return to Atlanta.
GAMECOCKS 2011 SCHEDULE
September 3rd – vs. East Carolina (game played in Charlotte)
September 10th – at Georgia
September 17th – vs. Navy
September 24th – vs. Vanderbilt
October 1st – vs. Auburn
October 8th – vs. Kentucky
October 15th – at Mississippi State
October 29th – at Tennessee
November 5th – at Arkansas
November 12th – vs. Florida
November 19th – vs. The Citadel
November 26th – vs. Clemson