South Carolina football: have Gamecocks played toughest half of schedule?

The South Carolina football team is at the midway point in the 2021 schedule and they currently sit right where most projected entering the year. So far, they’ve won the three games they’ve been favored in (Eastern Illinois, East Carolina, Troy), while having lost the three matchups in conference play (Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee).

Entering the year, the front of the slate appeared to be a bit less strenuous with matchups against just one ranked team, a couple of Group of Five opponents, and an FCS foe. The back half of the schedule, though, consisted of two teams that began the year in the top 10 of the polls, a couple more potential top 25 teams, and two long road trips to Missouri and College Station.

My, how things have changed.

Fast forward to the midway point in the season and we’ve seen Auburn, Clemson, and Texas A&M fall from the polls (though the Aggies just jumped back in following an upset of Alabama). Florida has lost multiple games and is already out of the SEC East race. Missouri is 0-3 to start conference play after being considered a dark horse to compete with Georgia entering the year. Throw in a matchup with cellar dweller Vanderbilt, and all of a sudden, things look relatively manageable for the Gamecocks moving forward.

Take a look at what’s happened to the top teams on the schedule.

1st half

  • Georgia         (No. 5 –> No. 1)
  • Kentucky      (NR  –> No .11)

2nd half

  • Texas A&M  (No. 6 –> No. 21)
  • Florida          (No. 13 –> No. 20)
  • Clemson       (No. 3 –> NR)

South Carolina football has already played the toughest part of its slate.

Looking back, it seemed that the first six games would be much easier than the final six. While South Carolina has won each of their three games against non-conference opponents, nobody foresaw the surge that Kentucky or Tennessee would experience.

The Wildcats have won each of their first six contests, shooting up to No. 11 in the latest poll. They’ve taken down Florida, LSU, Missouri, and the Gamecocks in that span to sit atop the SEC East standings alongside Georgia.

The Vols have been resurrected on offense, averaging more than 40 points a game to rank seventh in the nation. They’re off to a 4-2 start after finishing 3-7 last season.

The Gamecocks’ other SEC foe was unanimous No. 1 pick Georgia, who’s rolled through their first six games as they look to secure a national championship.

With all of that being said, those first six contests may have very well been more difficult than what lies ahead, which is a stark contrast to what was expected during the preseason. The Gamecocks were able to go 3-3 in those first six matchups. Duplicating that success will lead the program to its first bowl game appearance in three seasons.