HOOVER, Ala. – It’s not even August yet and Will Muschamp is already tired of talking about the Gamecocks’ unusually hard schedule this season.
The Gamecocks’ head coach, before he even started fielding questions on Wednesday at SEC Media Days, brought it up because, “I know people are going to ask me about the schedule.”
Yes, South Carolina plays in the SEC which is eight grueling games every year. But this year’s a little different with seemingly every top 25 team in the league on USC's schedule, and the Gamecocks are welcoming the challenge with open arms.
“I love it! That’s why you come to the Southeastern Conference and why you come to South Carolina; we play a bunch of good teams,” Muschamp said. “You know what? It’s going to be hard again next year. We have A&M coming to our place and we’re going to Baton Rouge. It’s hard every single year. We embrace it.
"It’s an opportunity to take a step forward in our program and an opportunity to play under the biggest lights in college football."
Eight of the Gamecocks’ 12 games are against teams ranked in the top 50 of ESPN’s FPI, including the top three in Clemson, Alabama and Georgia.
They’ll play Florida (8), Texas A&M (11), Tennessee (15) Missouri (19), Kentucky (40) and Vanderbilt (50) in what the FPI considers the hardest schedule in the entire country.
That doesn’t even include giant killer App State, who’s ranked No. 64 coming into the year. For comparisons, South Carolina starts the year at No. 18 and are projected to win six games this season.
But seeing all these good teams on the docket over the next five months doesn’t scare this team, it excites them.
“The opportunity,” Gamecocks wide receiver Bryan Edwards said. “When you look at it: Georgia, Clemson, Alabama. Even our other games, App State isn’t a slouch. It’s an opportunity to show who we are and what we can be.”
The Gamecocks already have one game scheduled for a primetime slot, hosting Alabama as CBS’s game of the week on Sept. 14 and there could be more later and night games coming.
“Knowing you get to play against the best of the best, it’s always exciting,” South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “I think guys are looking forward to it.”
Muschamp is entering his fourth season at South Carolina and coming off a 7-5 season. Through his first 39 games in Columbia, he’s 22-17 and 12-12 in the SEC, both school records for wins by a coach in his first three seasons.
Now he’s entering this year with what he said is probably the most talented team of his tenure and doesn’t have much time to worry about what teams he’s playing.
He’ll let fans and the media talk about the schedule and focus on getting his team prepared for the season.
“I'm not worried about the schedule,” Muschamp said. “I'm worried about the Gamecocks. That's all. I'm worried about the things that we can control.
"Again, I think that's why you come to a place like South Carolina or you come to the Southeastern Conference, to play against the best and be in the limelight every week and have great opportunities every single Saturday.”