South Carolina football: Gamecocks with 11th-hardest schedule, Clemson at No. 70

The South Carolina Gamecocks take the field. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
The South Carolina Gamecocks take the field. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images) /

South Carolina football is slated to face one of the nation’s toughest schedules once again in 2021, having matchups scheduled with four teams from the preseason top 15. The Gamecocks battle two teams rated in the top five, while also adding Auburn, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee as teams that don’t enter the year in the polls.

ESPN writer Bill Connelly expanded upon this strength of schedule in his national rankings, which detailed the difficulty of all 130 FBS teams’ slates. South Carolina came in as having the 11th-hardest schedule in the country, while one of the Gamecocks’ archrivals took some heat for falling low on the list.

Connelly pointed out that Clemson has one of the easiest routes to the College Football Playoff, but they could be in danger should they slip up. The Tigers rank as having the 70th-most difficult schedule, the lowest rating of all the Power Five members. And that’s with an out-of-conference matchup versus No. 5 Georgia.

Connelly points to a 12-1 Clemson resume compared to a possible 13-0 Cincinnati (No. 79 SOS). The Tigers would likely get the nod having played in the ACC and having past success in the CFP, but the Bearcats could have an argument in this situation. Cincinnati plays Indiana and Notre Dame out of conference.

Now, this is all speculation at this point. While the ease of Clemson’s schedule doesn’t diminish the talent on the Tigers’ roster, it does make the path more manageable. Alabama, for example, has the nation’s 16th-most difficult slate in these ratings, and they may not have the luxury of resting their starters for the second half in 3/4 of their games.

South Carolina, on the other hand, will do its best to navigate through another tough season, but bowl eligibility is in sight if the team can capitalize on a few swing games. Reaching the six-win mark in Shane Beamer’s first year will be a huge step towards progress for a team that went 6-16 over the last two seasons of the Muschamp era.

That path to bowl eligibility begins in just over a week when South Carolina football takes on Eastern Illinois in a September 4th season opener. The slate gets discernably tougher after that, with a road matchup against Georgia right around the corner.

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