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September is Critical for South Carolina

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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For Will Muschamp, there will be no smooth transitional period into the South Carolina program. The team must win from the outset in order to accomplish its goals for the campaign.

For the first time in eight offseasons, the South Carolina Gamecocks are making preparations for the upcoming campaign having not participated in a bowl game the year prior.

Coinciding with the fact that the Gamecocks are coming off of their worst season in a decade is the fact that expectations around the program are as low as they have been at any time during this millennium. The Gamecocks were picked by media members to finish last out of the seven teams in the SEC East at the recent SEC Media Days in Alabama.

That preseason projection is a far fall from grace for a team that finished the 2013 season ranked No. 4 in the country, and began the 2014 campaign ranked inside the top ten nationally.

But even with the low expectations surrounding the program in Will Muschamp’s first season in Columbia, the possibility to reach a bowl game is still very real for the Gamecocks playing a weakened SEC East.
In order for South Carolina to once again participate in postseason competition, however, it is imperative that the Gamecocks get off to a fast start out of the gate.

Of the seven contests of which South Carolina appears to have the best chance of picking up a win, four come in the month of September.

The Gamecocks, as usual, open up with a nationally-televised Thursday night showcase. This year, that contest will come on the road against division foe Vanderbilt, a team that finished just ten points ahead of the Gamecocks in the preseason conference balloting.

With two extra days of preparation following their Thursday opener, the Gamecocks will then prepare for one of their two games against SEC West teams. In a fortunate break for South Carolina, the program draws Mississippi State as its rotational opponent. The Bulldogs were picked to finish last in the SEC West by a wide margin by media members.

After two conference games to start, the Gamecocks will dive into non-conference action by hosting East Carolina, a team which won only four games last fall and is breaking in a new head coach in Scottie Montgomery. 

The final contest of the season’s opening month comes on the road at Kentucky. The Wildcats are expected to be improved in 2016, but they certainly will not be mistaken as a serious contender in the East either.

Once the calendar rolls into October, things will get much quicker for the Gamecocks in a hurry, meaning that it would be difficult to rack up wins towards bowl eligibility at that point.

Running through September unscathed does not appear to be absolutely necessary, but South Carolina can do no worse than 3-1 if it wants to have any realistic chance of gaining the 15 extra bowl practices at the end of the regular season.

For Will Muschamp, there will be no smooth transitional period into the program. The team must win from the outset in order to accomplish its goals for the campaign.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.