No need to state the obvious, but for the purposes of this column here goes: It was a rough week if you’re a South Carolina fan.

CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Freshman takes over at QB

The question is why? Trust me, this goes far beyond the obvious answer. After an entire offseason built on the premise that the Gamecocks were a better, deeper football team that just happened to have been saddled with the nation’s toughest schedule, the Gamecocks suffered a stunning 24-20 season-opening loss to North Carolina in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

I think it’s safe to say most Gamecocks fans went into the 2019 season with a guarded optimism. But there was still the expectation that South Carolina would at least scratch out six or seven victories and qualify for a bowl game, maybe even knock off one of the big boys along the way.

CAROLINA FOOTBALL: How Hilinski could impact the offense

Well, here’s the problem with that. North Carolina, a 2-9 team a year ago and in a coaching transition, was penciled in as one of those wins. It was a sure victory in the minds of everyone who thought the Gamecocks could get those six, maybe seven wins.

As a result, social media isn’t a very nice place if you’re Will Muschamp, who has seemingly pushed a fan base over the edge and his name atop most supposed “hot seat” listings for coaches.

CAROLINA FOOTBALL: Loss not all on Bentley, coach says

To make things a lot worse, the Gamecocks also lost senior quarterback Jake Bentley (foot) for at least the next six weeks.

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Enter Ryan Hilinski, the nation’s No. 2 recruit at quarterback for the 2019 recruiting cycle. He’s the man who will step in and try to reverse the Gamecocks’ failing fortunes, and it starts Saturday against Charleston Southern

Three keys

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  • Hope: There are two things you can count on by starting a freshman quarterback: adversity and hope. Young quarterbacks are going to have some growing pains, but they also give jilted fan bases hope. The Gamecocks need their young QB’s performance to inspire the latter on Saturday.
  • Stop the run … no seriously: Forget the fact UNC gashed the Gamecocks for 243 rushing yards last week, South Carolina needs to be a whole lot better against the Bucs. Charleston Southern isn’t even a good Big South team, and another day of watching opposing backs chug down the field unmolested certainly wouldn’t inspire much optimism heading into Week 3 against Alabama.
  • Solidify the line: After an uninspired performance against the Tar Heels, the Gamecocks are reshuffling their offensive line ahead of Saturday’s home opener. Most notably, veteran Donnell Stanley moves back to center. South Carolina probably doesn’t want to play musical chairs again after this week.

Re-predicting the record

We mentioned last week this feature is fluid. Following a loss that was at best perplexing, consequently, it’s no longer pretty.

Probable wins: Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt, Appalachian State.

Probable losses: Alabama, at Georgia, Florida, at Texas A&M, Clemson.

Tossups: at Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee.

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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 strickland.brantley@gmail.com.



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