South Carolina football: 2021 schedule ranks among nation’s toughest

The South Carolina football team will face an uphill battle in 2021.

It happens year after year. As one season of college football ends, the projections for the next begin to arise. The 2021 campaign will be no different, with top 25 rankings, conference champions, and playoff contenders already being predicted by the media.

Over the weekend, Brad Crawford of 24/7 Sports gave his guess on the nation’s 10 toughest schedules heading into the offseason. And, for the third consecutive season, the Gamecocks are included, having another brutal slate.

Though Crawford didn’t rank the teams in any particular order, it’s obvious from a glimpse that South Carolina’s schedule ranks among the hardest in the country. Crawford says that the Gamecocks could play as many as five ranked opponents, with a slate that includes Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, and Texas A&M.

Four of those teams, with the exception of Auburn, showed up in ESPN’s “Way-too-early college football top 25” earlier this month. Three of those four teams rank among the nation’s top six programs, meaning they’re likely playoff contenders heading into 2021. Florida was the only team to fall outside the top 15, slotting in at No. 16.

The Gamecocks’ non-conference slate does ease up a bit, with the exception of Clemson. South Carolina will take on Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, and Troy in other out-of-league action, after playing teams like North Carolina, Appalachian State, and NC State in recent years.

Still, the team will take on its typical SEC Eastern division foes, yearly Western crossover Texas A&M, and rotational crossover Auburn.

Here’s what Crawford had to say about the schedule as a whole.

Welcome to the SEC, Shane Beamer. The first-year head coach could take on as many as four Top 15 teams during his inaugural campaign with the Gamecocks, the only glimmer of good news being showdowns vs. Clemson and Florida come at home. Then there’s Georgia and Texas A&M on the road. If South Carolina doesn’t start hot in the non-conference, the Gamecocks are looking at their third consecutive season with potentially four or fewer wins.

As Crawford mentions, the Gamecocks will need to get off to a great start in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, as they are set to open the year with a home game versus Eastern Illinois, followed by a road matchup with ECU. After that, wins could be tough to come by.

South Carolina is looking to show progress in its first season under new head coach Shane Beamer, and his ability to get the Gamecocks back to a bowl game would be a great start in 2021.