South Carolina’s 2014 schedule is ranked as one of the toughest in college football and the Gamecocks will always have one of the hardest slates in America as long as they stay in the SEC.
However, if the Gamecocks wanted to add a home-and-home series against a team, who would they choose?
After looking at opponent prestige, opposing stadium atmosphere, and, most importantly, South Carolina’s chances of beating the opponent, here are the top 10 candidates:
10. Oregon State Beavers
2013 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Pac-12
Average Attendance in 2013: 42,964
The Beavers were upset by Eastern Washington of the FCS last year, but were one score away from knocking off Oregon. South Carolina has never faced Oregon State and has never played a football game in the state of Oregon.
9. Indiana Hoosiers
2013 Record: 5-7, 3-5 Big Ten
Average Attendance in 2013: 44,353
Indiana would garner slightly more respect than a smaller school, even though the Hoosiers have never had a strong football program. The Gamecocks would be almost assured of two wins and would be able to say they beat a Big Ten team.
8. Arizona Wildcats
2013 Record: 8-5, 4-5 Pac-12
Average Attendance in 2013: 47,619
The Wildcats are led by Rich Rodriguez and have experienced a bit of a resurgence under his leadership. An up-and-coming Pac-12 squad would likely provide a good challenge and would give South Carolina a chance to travel west.
7. Texas Tech Red Raiders
2013 Record: 8-5, 4-5 Big 12
Average Attendance in 2013: 57,933
Texas Tech was ranked as high as #9 last season and won a bowl game. The Red Raiders are coached by Kliff Kingsbury and run a wide-open, exciting offense. Lubbock can get wild for home games and would be a fantastic atmosphere.
6. TCU Horned Frogs
2013 Record: 4-8, 2-7 Big 12
Average Attendance in 2013: 43,598
The Horned Frogs stumbled last season, but are still regarded as a solid program under Gary Patterson. TCU might still have enough credibility to be a good win for the Gamecocks and would pit Steve Spurrier, one of the best offensive minds in the country, against one of the best defensive coaches in Patterson.
5. Washington Huskies
2013 Record: 9-4, 5-4 Pac-12
Average Attendance in 2013: 68,769
Washington finished last season ranked in the top-25 and now have a new head coach in Chris Petersen. The Huskies have renovated their stadium and have a great venue. A trip to Seattle would certainly be an interesting one for the Gamecocks.
4. Texas Longhorns
2013 Record: 8-5, 7-2 Big 12
Average Attendance in 2013: 98,976
The Longhorns now have former Gamecock defensive coordinator Charlie Strong at the helm and a pair of contests with South Carolina would be the center of the college football world. Texas has never made a trip to Columbia before.
3. Michigan Wolverines
2013 Record: 7-6, 3-5 Big Ten
Average Attendance in 2013: 111,592
Michigan would love a shot at revenge for the Outback Bowl loss in 2013. The Wolverines have one of the best home atmospheres in college football and the Gamecocks would love to get their first home win in school history against the maize and blue.
2. Iowa Hawkeyes
2013 Record: 8-5, 5-3 Big Ten
Average Attendance in 2013: 67,125
The Hawkeyes humiliated the Gamecocks in Tampa several years ago, but Iowa has never played South Carolina in the regular season. Steve Spurrier and Kirk Ferentz are two of the most respected head coaches in the country.
1. Utah Utes
2013 Record: 5-7, 2-7 Pac-12
Average Attendance in 2013: 45,194
Utah is a member of the Pac-12, which is regarded by most as the second-toughest conference in America. The Utes have struggled to adapt to life in their new conference and the Gamecocks could take advantage of a program working to overcome tough times.