2018 South Carolina Gamecocks Season Win Total Picks and Predictions for NCAA Football
2017 Record: 9-4
2018 Las Vegas Season Win Total: 7.5
2018 Season Win Total Picks NCAA Football: 'Over'
Will Muschamp was in over his head and flopped as the head coach of Florida. But there is no denying that he's got something cooking up in South Carolina right now. The Gamecocks have overachieved in each of his first two seasons in Columbia. And they enter the 2018 campaign as a potential sleeper in a top-heavy SEC East.
The Gamecocks easily surpassed their Las Vegas season win total in each of Muschamp's first two years, winning six regular-season games against a 5.0 line in 2016 and then soaring over last year's 5.5-win bar with eight regular-season victories. South Carolina has improved both its offensive and defensive numbers each of the past two seasons and enters fall camp with its most experienced team in Muschamp's reign.
Muschamp made his name as a defensive coordinator, and the Gamecocks have been rock-solid on that side of the ball for most of the past decade. They have six starters back but need to replace last year's heart and soul, Skai Moore. USC is also hoping that a rebuilt secondary can improve on last year's No. 69 pass defense. But even with that weakness, they were still No. 25 in the country in points allowed.
The strength of this team this year may actually be the offense. Junior Jake Bentley has been a starter since his freshman year. And with some improvement he could take that next step and become one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC. He is surrounded by a wealth of experience, with five three-year starters on this side of the ball.
The key will be the return of standout wide receiver Deebo Samuel. Their most explosive offensive player, Samuel played in only three games before getting injured last season. The return of Samuel should help offset the loss of tight end Hayden Hurst. And USC has its six top rushers and eight of its top nine receivers back in the fold.
South Carolina's biggest game of the year is in Week 2 when they host defending SEC champion Georgia. The Gamecocks have been installed as 12.5-point underdogs in that game already. But the home team has won five of the last six in that series. That is one of six home games that USC plays in its first eight contests. And if they beat UGA then the Gamecocks will be in the driver's seat in the East.
USC avoids all of the top teams from the West. And road games at Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Ole Miss are all winnable. They do have to face Florida and Clemson on the road in November. But I think that the Gamecocks will have at least seven wins by the time they take on Chattanooga in between the Florida and Clemson games. I think that this team has a ceiling of 10 regular-season wins. And I will be really surprised if they don't get to eight and beat this number.
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