Heading into 2016, there will likely be a lot of changes at South Carolina. One thing’s for sure, the Gamecocks know who they’ll be playing each week.
Here’s a deeper look into South Carolina’s 2016 football schedule:
Best matchup: Nov. 26 (at Clemson)
Let’s be honest. If South Carolina is 0-11 heading into their regular-season finale, then upends Clemson, the season could still be considered a success. There are certainly intriguing games up and down the Gamecocks’ schedule, including tilts with Mississippi State, Texas A&M, UGA and Florida — all teams that are expected to be good in 2016. However, between the SEC East slate and non-conference schedule, no game will compare to Clemson rounding out the regular season.
Toughest matchup: Nov. 12 (at Florida)
There’s arguably no SEC road game tougher than one in The Swamp. This year’s Florida team has already exceeded expectations, and there’s a chance the team could be even more competitive in 2016. After playing both Tennessee and Missouri at home the two weeks prior, South Carolina will definitely be tested in Gainesville, Fla. against the Gators.
Toughest stretch: Sept. 1-10
There’s an argument to be made that Nov. 12-26 will include two of South Carolina’s most difficult games against Florida and Clemson, in a three-week stretch, both of which will be played on the road. However, South Carolina’s first two games against SEC foes Vanderbilt and Mississippi State on the road should pose an even greater challenge. Whether it’s Shawn Elliott or another coach leading the Gamecocks, the team could potentially fall to 1-1 or 0-2 in SEC play before its first home game. It’ll put whoever is in charge of the team on the hot seat and dig a deep hole for the Gamecocks to have to climb out of for the rest of the year.
Biggest trap game: Sept. 24 (at Kentucky)
South Carolina fell to Kentucky, 26-22, at home this season. Next year, the game shifts to Lexington, Ky. after the aforementioned opening stretch in which the Gamecocks face Vandy and Mississippi State, and then host East Carolina in their home opener. After South Carolina faces Kentucky, it must take on Texas A&M and UGA in back-to-back games before the open date. It’ll be easy for South Carolina to overlook Kentucky with those two dates ahead on the schedule, but the Gamecocks would be wise not to take the Wildcats for granted, as evidenced by their loss to them this season.