South Carolina's three hardest, easiest games on 2019 football schedule
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS FOOTBALL
As we discussed in Wednesday morning's newsletter, ESPN updated its Football Power Index this week, which provides a preseason view of how their advanced metrics see each team. The numbers will surely change as data from the actual 2019 season is entered, but the FPI still offers a reasonable starting place for what to expect from each team and what to expect from each game this year. Here's a look at the Gamecocks' three easiest games and three toughest games, according to that system.
THE THREE EASIEST GAMES
Vanderbilt - 77.2 percent chance of a South Carolina win
The Vanderbilt contest just narrowly edges out the season-opener against North Carolina (77.1 percent) as the third easiest on the schedule, according to the FPI. While game results rarely directly carry over from year to year in college football, the Gamecocks did dispose of Vanderbilt relatively easy in Nashville last year and should be pretty heavy favorites in Columbia this season. Will Muschamp is 3-0 at South Carolina against the Commodores.
Appalachian State - 85.8 percent chance of a South Carolina win
App State's reputation, not just as a team capable of an upset but also as one of the top programs in the Sun Belt, precedes itself here. While South Carolina fans will certainly be worried about this game - and rightfully so - the FPI gives the Gamecocks an easy win over the Eliah Drinkwitz-led team.
Charleston Southern - 99.3 percent chance of a South Carolina win
South Carolina's home opener should offer an easy W and a chance to start 2-0, according to the FPI. As we detailed previously, Charleston Southern will be breaking in a new staff with a new head coach and two new coordinators. The transition from a run-first offense to an 'Air Raid' attack may also be difficult early in the season for the FCS program.
THE THREE HARDEST GAMES
Georgia - 20.1 percent chance of a South Carolina win
It's no surprise at all that Georgia, Alabama and Clemson are listed as the three most difficult games on the schedule, though the order is definitely something that could be up for debate. Despite the game being in Athens, the FPI ranks the Georgia game as the "easiest" of the three contests and gives the Gamecocks a one in five chance of winning. As good as the Bulldogs have become, they still trail both Alabama and Clemson in talent level.
Alabama - 17.5 percent chance of a South Carolina win
The argument could easily be made that this is the most difficult game on the schedule, but it's really splitting hairs to choose between Alabama and Clemson. The Crimson Tide returns an offense that should once again be elite with a Heisman contender at quarterback and a deep, talented receiver group. The last time the Tide hit Willy B, they left with a 35-21 loss to the Gamecocks, but Nick Saban is undefeated against his former assistants.
Clemson - 14.9 percent chance of a South Carolina win
The defending champs will hit Columbia for the annual in-state showdown. The Gamecocks have lost five straight and will look to end the Tigers' streak of trips to the College Football Playoffs.