Tales From The Cockpit: Now or Never

Credit: © Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

No matter how you look at it, the 2017 South Carolina Gamecocks football season was abysmal.

Sure, the offense improved and were quite possibly the best offense Coach Will Muschamp has ever had as a head coach, but the defense and the overall team record did not improve.

In fact, they got much worse.

Muschamp is a defensive guy, a defensive guru if you will, but his Gamecock defense was among the worst in the country in many respects. The Gamecocks defense was ranked 89th in total yards allowed (428.5) and 98th in rushing yards per game (199.5).

This is unacceptable for anybody. Even more unacceptable for Coach Boom.

When Muschamp came to Carolina, we all had fairly modest expectations for the first couple of years. As I even said on this blog, the cupboard was bare and he had a lot of work to do with the lack of talent on the roster defensively.

Well, he did a fine job.

In his first season with the Gamecocks, Muschamp took Carolina to a bowl game, bouncing back from a 3-9 season, and he did so with none of his own recruits. We then saw the defense improve in 2017, ranked 25th in FBS in total defense at the end of the season, so we had even higher hopes for 2018.

Then 2018 happened.

Now we enter year four of the Coach Boom Era and we’re already starting to make excuses and explain away what could be another abysmal season.

To me, that’s also unacceptable.

If we want to grow, if we want to play with the big boys and our bitter rival in the Upstate, then schedules like the 2019 Gamecocks schedule should get us pumped up. Our boys have a chance to prove themselves on the field against the cream of the crop.

Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Texas A&M and Alabama are all unquestionably better teams on paper than South Carolina…but this is college football, baby. Anything can happen.

The Gamecocks offense is trending in the right direction and jumped from 99th overall offense in FBS in 2017 to 57th in 2018. This also needs to improve, but we all kind of expect it to with the addition of Tavien Feaster and the continued progression of Jake Bentley and his receivers.

OrTre Smith and Bryan Edwards will have to fill the void left by Deebo Samuel and Feaster along with Rico Dowdle and the rest of the Gamecocks running backs are going to have to find something that has yet to exist in Muschamp’s tenure as South Carolina Head Coach…a consistent running game.

This is going to be a season of “if”s, but if all goes the right way, it could be one amazing Fall…and if it doesn’t it could be a really long Fall.

Predictions:

As always, these are just guesses. Nobody has a clue what is about to happen, nobody, so get angry if you want, but it’s just my educated guesses.

Week 1 vs UNC (in Charlotte)- 35-21 Gamecocks
Week 2 vs Charleston Southern- 45-10 Gamecocks
Week 3 vs Alabama- 42-24 Bama
Week 4 @ Mizzou- 38-34 Gamecocks
Week 5 vs Kentucky- 45-28 Gamecocks
Week 6 @ UGA- 42-38 Bulldogs
Week 7 vs Florida- 28-24 Gamecocks
Week 8 @ Tennessee- 35-28 Gamecocks
Week 9 vs Vandy- 48-17 Gamecocks
Week 10 vs App State- 38-35 Gamecocks
Week 11 @ A&M- 35-21 Aggies
Week 12 vs Clemson- 42-38 GAMECOCKS!!!

Why not?

I’m probably going to be wrong, Clemson is probably going back to a the CFB Playoffs after throttling Carolina…but this is my blog and I want to have some false hope before the season begins!

I honestly just have a good feeling about the season, whether it’s 9-3 as I listed above or 8-4 factoring in the reality of the Clemson match-up, it would still be a hugely successful season with the above results considering their schedule.

Getting the monkey off of their back in week 5 against Kentucky will be insanely important for the Gamecocks. If the losing streak runs to 6-games against the Wildcats this season, the second half of the schedule could go very badly.

I personally feel like Carolina can get that big Week 5 win against Kentucky, rebuilding their confidence after a loss to Alabama and giving them some swagger with a 4-1 start and big games to follow.

I expect to see a different Gamecocks squad in 2019 than we saw in 2018 and even if they don’t get any of the major upsets, I feel like they’ll compete in the majority of those games and build some confidence going into future match-ups with the college football elite.

If I’m wrong, if the defense continues to fall apart and the Gamecocks 2019 season crashes and burns…then it might be time to start considering Will Muschamp’s future with this program. The time to make progress is now.

Stay tuned for more Tales From The Cockpit blogs on ESPNUpstate.com sprinkled in throughout the season!

-Ditti

Find me on Twitter (@Ditti33), Facebook (/InsideTheMindOfDitti) and Instagram (@dittius33)

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