South Carolina football: week 1 preview and prediction

Sep 2, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; A South Carolina Gamecocks flag is waved. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 2, 2017; Charlotte, NC, USA; A South Carolina Gamecocks flag is waved. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports /
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The South Carolina football team opens the Shane Beamer era on Saturday night under the bright lights of Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks will take on the Eastern Illinois Panthers looking to get off to a 1-0 start on the year, ending what’s currently a six-game losing skid for the program.

South Carolina welcomes in a new feeling of excitement surrounding the start of the campaign, as coach Beamer and his new staff have breathed life into a fanbase that was beaten down over the last few seasons. After winning just six games in the last two years combined, Gamecock supporters have come out in droves to set a program record in new ticket sale purchases.

The coaching staff isn’t the only thing that has fans excited, though. South Carolina brings back the SEC’s leading rusher in Kevin Harris, his new sidekick MarShawn Lloyd, a potential first-round pick on the defensive line in Kingsley Enagbare, and a host of new faces at a number of key positions.

While there are key returners, there’s also reason for concern. The Gamecocks will be without starting quarterback Luke Doty, who injured his foot in preseason practice. The dual-threat passer is expected to be ready to roll for next week’s matchups against East Carolina, but he’ll likely be unavailable this Saturday.

In his stead, graduate assistant turned signal caller Zeb Noland comes in to lead the offensive unit. He will look for a wide receiver to step up and help out, but that’s a group that’s largely unproven at this point.

On defense, the front four should be steady, but there are question marks on the back end. The Gamecocks lost five of their top defensive backs from last year’s roster, and are hoping that transfers and youngsters can provide a formidable back line of defense.

With many unanswered questions, along with a brand new coaching staff, expectations remain relatively low for those outside of Columbia. Vegas set the bar low, projecting a win total of just 3.5 games on the season. Most of the media see the Gamecocks finishing in the bottom half of the SEC East standings.

Still, week one should provide a tune-up game for a program in search of confidence. Let’s take a look at the opponent, provide some key players to keep an eye on, and give our final prediction for the game’s outcome.