Coach: Will Muschamp, fourth season (50-38 overall, 22-17 at South Carolina).
Last season: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in the SEC (T-4th in the East). Lost to Virginia 28-0 in the Belk Bowl.
Last year’s game: Down 31-14 late in the third quarter, the Gators ripped off 21 unanswered points to rally to a 35-31 victory in The Swamp. The Gators gutted the Gamecocks on the ground. Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine combined to rush for 266 yards and UF amassed 367 total rushing yards.
Starters returning: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense).
Strengths: The Gamecocks have one of the SEC’s most experienced quarterbacks in senior Jake Bentley, who has been the starter since his true freshman season. He’s coming off a season in which he threw for 3,171 yards and 27 touchdowns. Three of his favorite targets from a year ago return — Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith and Kiel Pollard — so the Gamecocks should have one of the league’s most potent passing games. Up front, USC should be solid, with three starters returning. At running back, Rico Dowdle has a chance to have a big year if he can stay healthy, something he didn’t do last season. The secondary, with three starters returning, is the strength of the defense. The Gamecocks also have a lot of experience at linebacker, led by T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Greene.
Possible problem areas: The defense was overwhelmed at times trying to stop the run, and that could be a problem again in 2018. Two of the top defensive linemen from last season — Bryson Allen-Williams and Josh Belk — are gone, so the Gamecocks are going to have to find production from some unproven players up front.
The schedule: The Gamecocks have one of the toughest in the nation. It includes games against the top three teams in the nation — Clemson, Alabama and Georgia. The only good news there is that the Clemson and Alabama games are in Columbia. USC’s other opponent from the West is Texas A&M. Overall, it’s a brutal schedule.
Quotable: “I know people are going to ask me about the schedule. Hell, schedule’s hard every year. That is the way I look at it. We have a great opportunity to step forward as a program to be in the limelight and take advantage of the opportunities we have in front of us. In my opinion, we have our best team coming back in South Carolina since I have been there, and we’re looking forward to that opportunity.” — Will Muschamp