It’s a topsy-turvy world in 2020, and that seems to have trickled down to the SEC this year.
Thus far, the abbreviated and delayed season has included the defending national champions upset twice, Arkansas’ first SEC win in three seasons and Mike Leach being Mike Leach (upset over LSU, losses to Arkansas and Kentucky).
Aside from Georgia, a substantial shortage of defense is prevalent across the conference. Coaches can’t even seem to manage to wear face masks currently, with Jeremy Pruitt protecting his ears from COVID-19 last week, while Lane Kiffin looked primed to pull off a stagecoach robbery in a spirited loss to Alabama.
Vanderbilt appears to be the program closest to normal these days, as the Commodores lost to South Carolina 41-7 last week.
And speaking of the Gamecocks, does this odd 2020 season mean the schedule has opened up? It would appear so after the aforementioned craziness of the first few weeks and a 1-2 record that actually may be a bit deceiving.
The Gamecocks rank ninth in the conference in offense, averaging just north of 30 points per game. Defensively, South Carolina is third in the league, allowing 330 yards and 25 points per game, despite some pretty obvious flaws in the secondary.
The volatility of the league means there isn’t a sure loss outside of Georgia left on the schedule. Games against Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M suddenly look winnable and the tossups of Missouri, Ole Miss and Kentucky remain just that.
Now, I’m not suggesting the Gamecocks go and finish 7-3. That would be monumental accomplishment, but it’s probably outside this team’s capabilities. Going 5-5, maybe even 6-4 certainly isn’t.
No. 14 Auburn rolls into Columbia this weekend, curiously as only a three-point favorite. The Tigers are a little banged up and got taken to the wire last week by Arkansas. The game presents a unique opportunity for the Gamecocks to get one back after letting Tennessee slip away in the season opener.
Call it a blind hunch, but 2020 seems to be the opportune time for the Gamecocks to beat the Tigers for the first time since 1933. In an already odd year, things will get a little more strange Saturday in Williams-Brice.
South Carolina 24, Auburn 21
Brantley Strickland, formerly sports editor for The Times and Democrat, now works as an economic developer for Southern Carolina Regional Development Alliance. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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