TV COVERAGE: CBS will be on hand to televise the SEC opener. Brad Nessler and Gary Danielson will be in the booth with Jamie Erdahl working the sidelines. It's the first time the CBS "A" team has called a South Carolina game since the 2014 contest against Georgia.
NATIONAL RADIO: Bill Rosinski and David Norrie will be in the booth and Ian Fitzsimmons will patrol the sidelines for ESPN's national radio broadcast.
SEC NATION: The SEC Network's traveling pregame show, SEC Nation Presented by Pilot Flying J, will be in Columbia as well. The show will air live from 10 a.m. – Noon ET from Gamecock Park. Laura Rutledge hosts the show, navigating the Saturday morning conversations with analysts Tim Tebow, Marcus Spears and Paul Finebaum, along with reporter Lauren Sisler. This will be SEC Nation's fourth time in Columbia and the Gamecocks' seventh total appearance on the show. In addition to the live show Saturday, Gamecock Park will play host Friday to The Paul Finebaum Show Presented by Johnsonville, which airs from 3-7 p.m. on SEC Network. Fans are invited to catch all four hours of #FinebaumFriday from the Gamecock Park set.
A HISTORY LESSON: 2018 marks the 125th season of intercollegiate football at South Carolina. It is the 112th-consecutive year in which South Carolina has competed on the gridiron. The University did not field a team in either 1893 or 1906. Carolina owns an all-time record of 602-573-44.
SEC HISTORY: The South Carolina Gamecocks are in their 27th year in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina and Arkansas joined the league prior to the 1992 campaign. The Gamecocks earned their lone SEC Eastern Division title in 2010. The Gamecocks are 90-117-1 (.435) all-time in SEC regular-season play, but are 35-29 (.547) in conference action since the start of the 2010 season. With a 5-3 mark and sole possession of second place in the SEC East in 2017, the Gamecocks won five or more conference games for just the eighth time in 26 years since joining the SEC.
SEC OPENERS: The Gamecocks are 12-14 in SEC openers. They are 3-6 when opening the SEC season at home and 9-8 when they begin their SEC slate on the road. Eighteen of South Carolina's previous 26 SEC openers have come against Georgia, with the Bulldogs holding an 11-7 advantage in those contests, including a 4-3 mark at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia and a 7-4 mark when the teams have opened the SEC slate at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
CAROLINA VS. GEORGIA: This is the 71st meeting between these two bordering flagship state schools. Only Clemson (115) has faced the Gamecocks more often than Georgia. The Bulldogs lead the all-time series by a 50-18-2 margin, including a 20-10-2 advantage when the game has been played in Columbia. However, Carolina has won three of the past four meetings between the two schools at Williams-Brice Stadium. Georgia has a 29-8 mark in the series when it's been contested in Athens, and a 1-0 mark when it's been at a neutral site. Since becoming SEC Eastern Division rivals in 1992, UGA owns a 17-9 advantage in the series, including an 8-5 mark in Columbia.
EVEN IN THE DECADE: The Gamecocks and Bulldogs have split the first eight games played in this decade evenly. Carolina won three-straight from 2010-12, its longest winning streak in the series, and again in 2014. Georgia has countered with wins in 2013 and in each of the past three contests, including a 24-10 win in Athens last year.
THE LAST TIME THEY MET: Jake Fromm completed 16-of-22 passes for 196 yards and two scores to lead Georgia to a 24-10 win over Carolina on November 4, 2017 in Athens. The Bulldogs came into the contest as the newly-minted No. 1 team in the country according to the CFP rankings and posted their ninth-consecutive win of the season. Carolina's Jake Bentley hit on 21-of-35 passes for 227 yards with one touchdown, but was intercepted twice, as the Gamecocks fell to 6-3.
THE LAST TIME IN COLUMBIA: Hurricane Matthew forced a scheduling change, as the Gamecocks hosted Georgia in a rare Sunday afternoon game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 9, 2016. The Bulldogs churned out 326 rushing yards on 50 carries in a 28-14 win. Carolina quarterback Perry Orth completed 26-of-36 passes for 288 yards, but was sacked five times. Deebo Samuel (4 catches, 90 yards) and Hayden Hurst (six catches, 86 yards) proved to be a solid one-two receiving punch.
WELL THAT'S DIFFERENT: After an 11-year stretch from 1998-2008 in which the teams did not score more than 38 points combined, the offense have had the better of it lately. In the last nine meetings, the winning team has scored at least 35 points six times and the teams have combined for over 70 points in five of those nine contests, including a record 87 points in 2011.
MAKING A POINT: After playing 34 times from 1971-2008 without scoring 30 points in any single contest, Carolina has tallied 30-plus points in five of the last nine meetings against the Bulldogs.
MUSCHAMP VS. GEORGIA: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp owns a 1-5 record as a head coach against his alma mater. The 1994 Georgia grad lost each of his first three encounters before posting a 38-20 win in 2014, all as the head coach at Florida. All four of those games were played in Jacksonville. He is 0-2 against Georgia as the Gamecocks' head coach, losing by 28-14 and 24-10 margins.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND: This is one game that Carolina offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon has to have circled. A 2005 Georgia graduate, McClendon spent his entire coaching career with the Bulldogs prior to joining Will Muschamp's staff on Dec. 23, 2015. During his time in Athens, McClendon served as the Bulldogs' interim head coach and led his team to the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl win over Penn State.
IT JUST MEANS MORE: The Peach State is well-represented on Carolina's roster, as 24 players claim Georgia as their home state. That figures to 21 percent of the Gamecocks' 113-man roster.
ABOUT LAST WEEK: Jake Bentley completed 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards and a career-high four touchdowns as South Carolina routed Coastal Carolina by a 49-15 margin last Saturday afternoon in Columbia. Rico Dowdle added 105 yards on the ground as the Gamecocks churned up 263 rushing yards. The Gamecocks scored on seven of their first nine possessions in the contest, as the 49 points were the fourth-highest opening day point total in school history. Meanwhile, the Gamecock defense limited the Chanticleers to just 238 yards of offense in the victory.
BIG OFFENSIVE OUTPUT: The Gamecocks had one of their top offensive games in recent memory in the win over Coastal:
* 49 points - the most since hanging 70 on the Chants in 2013.
* 557 yards of total offense - the first 500-yard game since collecting 588 against Western Carolina in 2016.
* 32 first downs - the most since logging 32 against Kentucky in 2014.
* 5 passing touchdowns - the most since throwing for five TD passes at Auburn in 2014.
SUCCESSFUL OPENING ACTS: The Gamecocks improved to 84-37-4 (.688) in 125 season openers. Carolina has won 18 of its last 19 season openers dating back to 2000, with the only loss in that stretch coming to Texas A&M in 2014. Carolina now owns a 71-19-4 record in the 94 seasons in which they opened the season at home.
EARLY AND OFTEN: The Gamecocks put up 28 first-half points in the win over Coastal Carolina. It was the most first-half points in a season-opening game for South Carolina since they hung 31 against Ball State in a 38-20 win on September 5, 1998.
NOT IN OUR HOUSE: The Gamecocks have now won 14-straight season-opening games against non-conference opponents, dating back to a 10-0 setback at NC State to open the 1999 campaign. The last non-conference opponent to win a season opener at Williams-Brice Stadium was Miami (Fla.) in 1986.
IN THE POLLS: The Gamecocks began the 2018 season just outside the top-25, ranking 26th in both the Associated Press and Coaches' polls. The Gamecocks are currently ranked 24th in both the AP and Coaches polls. It's the first time they have been ranked in the AP top-25 since September of 2014.
BEATING THE BEST: Georgia enters the game as the nation's third-ranked team in the Associated Press poll. A win over the Bulldogs would tie for the second-best victory in Carolina history, based on A.P. rankings. Five of Carolina's top seven wins based on the AP rankings have come since 2009, including a win over top-ranked Alabama in 2010.
DID YOU KNOW?: With Georgia coming into the game as the No. 3 team in the nation, South Carolina has now faced a top-5 ranked team in 12 of the past 13 seasons, according to the A.P. poll.
GIVE THE KEYS TO BENTLEY: Junior Jake Bentley triggers the Carolina offense. The 6-4, 224-pounder from Opelika, Ala., owns a 14-7 record as a starting signal-caller. Bentley was impressive in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina, completing 22-of-29 passes for 250 yards with a career-best four touchdowns. With the 22 completions and four touchdown passes, he moved into the top-10 in school history for both career completions (392) and TD passes (31).
BE LIKE MIKE: Fifth-year senior Michael Scarnecchia is the only other quarterback on the roster that has thrown a pass in a game. He tossed his first career touchdown strike in the win over Coastal, hooking up with Randrecous Davis from 27-yards out. The cerebral Scarnecchia, who earned a finance degree in May, was recognized as the 2017 Dr. Harris Pastides Outstanding Student-Athlete. He is on record naming Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Shakespeare as the three people in history he would most like to have dinner with.
FOUR SCORE AND FOUR YEARS AGO: Jake Bentley threw four touchdown passes in the season-opening win over Coastal Carolina. He connected on scoring tosses of 8, 24, 22 and 8 yards out to four different receivers. The last Gamecock quarterback to throw four or more TD passes in a game was Dylan Thompson, who threw 5 touchdown passes at Auburn in 2014.
JUNIOR RUSHING QUARTET: The Gamecocks feature a stable of four junior running backs. Rico Dowdle got the start in the win over Coastal, and responded with 105 yards on 15 carries, a 7.0-yard average, with one score, and also caught a 22-yard TD pass. It was Dowdle's fourth-career 100-yard rushing game. With 1,120 career rushing yards, he ranks 39th in school history. Just 68 yards and three notches below him is A.J. Turner, who ranks 42nd on the career rushing list with 1,052 yards. Turner also is one of the squad's top special teams performers. Ty'Son Williams, who spent one year at North Carolina, had one of his better games as a Gamecock in the opener, rushing 11 times for 82 yards and a touchdown. Mon Denson sat out the opener with a hamstring injury.
SAMUEL IS KING: One of the most electrifying players in college football is 6-0, 210-pound senior Deebo Samuel. Samuel has earned numerous preseason All-America and All-SEC accolades as a wide receiver, kick returner and all-purpose performer. In 2016, Samuel had 1,320 all-purpose yards and became one of just six Power 5 players in the past five years to record a passing, rushing, receiving and kickoff-return touchdown in the same season. He scored six TDs in three games a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury. In the 2018 season opener, Samuel caught a game-high seven passes for 56 yards and a touchdown, rushed once for 11 yards and returned two kickoffs for 45 yards.
LEADER IN THE CLUBHOUSE: With two kick returns against Coastal, Deebo Samuel now owns 21 career kick returns, giving him enough chances to qualify for the school's career kickoff return record. With a 33.0-yard average, Samuel is well in front of challengers Rashad Fenton (24.8 from 2015-18) and Kent Hagood (24.7 from 1981-85) as the school's record-holder.
NO SECOND FIDDLE: While Deebo Samuel has received much of the preseason accolades, and rightly so, junior Bryan Edwards is statistically the Gamecocks' top receiver. With two seasons left on his eligibility clock, Edwards could rank among the greatest wide receivers in school history before he is through. He has started and has caught a pass in all 26 games in which he has appeared for the Garnet & Black.
REPLACING HAYDEN: The Gamecock offense has four upperclassmen ready to step into the tight end vacancy created when All-SEC performer Hayden Hurst went to the NFL as a first-round draft pick. Seniors K.C. Crosby and Jacob August, and juniors Kyle Markwayand Kiel Pollard all saw extensive action in the season opener, with Pollard catching his first career touchdown.
O-LINE EXPERIENCE: Despite losing a pair of starters in Cory Helms and Alan Knott off the offensive line from a year ago, the Gamecocks front unit boasts a wealth of experience with 76 combined starts. Senior left guard Zack Bailey owns the most starts on the team with 27 and has been given some preseason All-SEC recognition. Fifth-year junior Donell Stanley moves to center this season where he is a Rimington Award candidate. He has made 14 career starts. Senior left tackle Dennis Daley, a former junior college transfer, moved into the starting lineup early in the 2017 season and has now made 12-straight starts. Highly-regarded redshirt sophomore right guard Sadarius Hutcherson and senior right tackle Blake Camper, have each made five starts. Senior Malik Young, who is listed with the second-team unit, has made 13 career starts.
WONNUM CAPTAINS THE D: Junior Buck D.J. Wonnum was selected a team captain a year ago as a sophomore, and is the leader up front. A two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, Wonnum was voted the Gamecocks' Most Productive Defensive Player in 2017 after logging 13.0 tackles for loss, including 6.0 sacks. He had three tackles, including a tackle for loss, in the season opener before leaving with an ankle injury.
JAVON LAYS DOWN THE LAW: Junior defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is a force in the middle of the line. Down to around 305 pounds after coming in a year ago at about 340, Kinlaw is on track to have a big year. He collected five tackles in the season opener including 1.5 tackles for loss and a half sack.
B-A-W IS B-A-C-K: After missing much of last season following a season-ending shoulder injury, senior Bryson Allen-Williams is back and better than ever. Listed as the starter at SAM linebacker, Allen-Williams can also put his hand in the dirt and give Carolina a solid rush off the edge. He accounted for five tackles in the season opening win, including 3.0 tackles for loss and a sack along with a quarterback hurry. Off the field, he is the Vice Chair of the SEC Football Leadership Council.
CLEARANCE CLARENCE: The NCAA gave freshman defensive lineman Josh Belk a waiver just prior to the start of the season making him eligible for the 2018 season. Belk graduated from Lewisville (S.C.) High School in December 2017 and enrolled at Clemson before transferring to Carolina this summer due to a family situation.
BRUNSON JUST MAKES STOPS: Junior linebacker T.J. Brunson picked up right where he left off from a season ago. Brunson, who was the first player that Coach Muschamp recruited upon his hire, was second on the squad with 88 tackles a year ago. He earned a spot on the AP's All-Bowl team following his 13-tackle, two-sack performance in the Outback Bowl win over Michigan. He logged a team-leading six tackles, all solo stops, in the season opening win over Coastal.
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST TIME: True freshman defensive back Jaycee Horn earned a starting assignment in the season opener. He became just the seventh true freshman to start for the Gamecocks in the season opener since the 2009 season joining Stephon Gilmore(2009), Marcus Lattimore (2010), Jadeveon Clowney (2011), Bryson Allen-Williams (2014), Al Harris Jr. (2014) and Bryan Edwards (2016).
KICKING IT WITH PARKER: Redshirt sophomore Parker White held off challenges from sophomore Alexander Woznick and graduate transfer Shane Hynes to reclaim the starting placekicking duties. White connected on 14-of-25 field goal attempts last season, but was 10-for-11 from inside 40 yards. He booted a 31-yard attempt in the final seconds to lift the Gamecocks to a 17-16 win over Louisiana Tech in 2017. White also handles the kickoff duties. He logged 44 touchbacks among his 65 kickoffs a season ago (68 percent). In the season opener, White was successful on all seven of his extra point attempts and was not asked to attempt a field goal. He also was 5-for-5 in touchbacks on his kickoffs.
WHO? THAT'S TOMMIE: Junior placekicker Will Tommie had the final three kickoffs against Coastal and booted them all into the endzone for touchbacks. Tommie, a junior who transferred from Tusculum where he was an All-South Atlantic Conference performer as a freshman, was not on the 110-man roster at the start of fall camp, and just rejoined the team when the roster expanded in late August with the start of school.
I'M CHARLTON YOUR PUNTER: Junior Joseph Charlton handles the punting chores for the Gamecocks and is an All-SEC candidate. Last season, Charlton averaged 43.5 yards on 55 punts with a long of 73 yards. He had just four touchbacks, logged 15 punts inside the 20 and boomed 17 punts of 50 yards or more. The Gamecocks ranked 19th in the nation in net punting with a 40.5-yard average. He only had one attempt in the season-opening win against Coastal Carolina, booting a 46-yarder with no return.
BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID: Senior kick returner Deebo Samuel had two chances to return kickoffs last season and took them both to the house from 97 yards away, turning the trick against NC State and Missouri. He is the only player in school history to log three kick returns for scores in his career, and is the school's all-time leader in kickoff returns with a 30.0-yard average.
FRESH FISH: The Gamecocks used 11 true freshmen in the season opener. In addition to Jaycee Horn who was a starter, R.J. Roderick, Josh Vann, Israel Mukuamu, Rosendo Louis Jr., Kingsley Enagbare, Ernest Jones, Jovaughn Gwyn, Dylan Wonnum, Rick Sandidgeand Josh Belk all saw action.
2017 IN REVIEW: South Carolina football concluded its 124th season of intercollegiate football in 2017 with a record of 9-4, including a 5-3 mark in the SEC. The Gamecocks won nine or more games for just the seventh time in school history. Five of those seven seasons have come in the last eight years. South Carolina defeated Florida and Tennessee, two of the big three SEC East rivals, in the same season for just the fourth time. Two of the Gamecocks' four losses were to teams that participated in the College Football Playoff (Georgia and Clemson). The season culminated with a New Year's Day Outback Bowl win over perennial Big Ten power Michigan by a 26-19 score, as the Gamecocks rallied from a 19-3 third-quarter deficit.
PROGRAM ON THE RISE: The Gamecocks increased their overall win total from three in 2015 to six in 2016 to nine in 2017. South Carolina is one of only three NCAA FBS programs and the only one in the Power Five to have a multiple-win improvement in each of the last two regular seasons.
GOING BOWLING: The Gamecocks played in the 2018 Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, defeating Michigan by a 26-19 score. Carolina overcame a 19-3 third-quarter deficit, the largest in head coach Will Muschamp's career, to post the victory. It marked the 13th time in the last 14 years that the Gamecocks were bowl-eligible. The Gamecocks are 6-5 in the 11 bowl games played in that stretch, including wins in five of their last six bowl appearances. Carolina is 9-13 all time in 22 bowl games.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL: South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp is in his third season in Columbia. Coach Muschamp posted a 15-11 ledger in his first two seasons guiding the Gamecocks. Only Joe Morrison (15-8 in 1983-84) and Steve Spurrier (15-10 in 2005-06) won as many games in their first two seasons at Carolina.
COACHING CAROUSEL: Head football coach Will Muschamp relieved co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper of his duties on December 6, 2017. Co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon coordinated the Gamecocks' offense and called the plays for the 2018 Outback Bowl game versus Michigan. He was given the full-time coordinator's role in January. Veteran offensive coach Dan Werner was selected to coach the quarterbacks for the 2018 season. Kyle Krantz moved into an on-field role as the additional 10th coach. He will assist with the special teams and coach the nickelbacks and Sam linebackers.
FINDING TALENT: Eric Wolford was named a top 25 recruiter by Rivals, while Bryan McClendon ranked 25th in 247Sports recruiter rankings following the February 2018 signing date.
CLASS BREAKDOWN: The 113-man roster consists of 20 seniors, 25 juniors, 24 sophomores, 15 redshirt freshmen and 29 true freshmen.
THEY'RE BACK: The Gamecocks welcomed 53 returning letterwinners to begin the 2018 fall camp. The 53 lettermen consist of 26 offensive, 21 defensive and six special teams players.
IT'S A NUMBERS GAME: The Gamecocks return 98 percent of their rushing yards, 100 percent of their passing yards and 80 percent of their receiving yards from a year ago. Hayden Hurst is the only player who had offensive yards in 2017 and did not return this season. The top returning rushers are juniors A.J. Turner (531 yards) and Rico Dowdle (471). Junior Jake Bentley (2,794 yards) is the top returning passer, while junior Bryan Edwards (64 catches for 793 yards), and freshmen OrTre Smith (30 for 326) and Shi Smith (29 for 409) are the top three returning receivers. Five of the squad's top nine tacklers return, including T.J. Brunson (88 tackles) and D.J. Wonnum (57). Wonnum also led the team with 13.0 tackles for loss and with 6.0 sacks.
FOR STARTERS: The Gamecocks list 16 returning starters from the 2017 squad, eight on offense, six on defense and two specialists. The returning offensive starters are RT Zack Bailey, QB Jake Bentley, LT Dennis Daley, WR Bryan Edwards, WR OrTre Smith, WR Shi Smith, LG Donell Stanley and RB A.J. Turner. The returning defensive starters include LB T.J. Brunson, CB Rashad Fenton, DT Javon Kinlaw, DE Keir Thomas, N Jamyest Williams and DE D.J. Wonnum. Starting punter Joseph Charlton and placekicker Parker White also return.
PUT ME IN COACH: The Gamecocks had 11 players start every game in 2017, five on offense - Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards, Hayden Hurst, Alan Knott and Donell Stanley; and six on defense - T.J. Brunson, JaMarcus King, Chris Lammons, Skai Moore, Taylor Stallworth and D.J. Wonnum. Bentley, Edwards, Stanley, Brunson and Wonnum return in 2018.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: The Gamecocks said goodbye to 15 lettermen from last year's roster including eight starters, three on offense and, five on defense. The departing starters include offensive linemen Cory Helms and Alan Knott and tight end Hayden Hurst. Defensively, the Gamecocks lost tackle Taylor Stallworth, linebacker Skai Moore, and defensive backs JaMarcus King, Chris Lammonsand D.J. Smith.
YOU WILL BE MISSED: The Gamecocks will play without the services of fifth-year senior running back Caleb Kinlaw and true freshman defensive tackle Tyreek Johnson, both of whom suffered torn ACLs during fall camp. Redshirt freshman defensive back Tavyn Jacksonwas forced to retire from football due to a medical issue, but will remain on scholarship.
HAPPY, HAPPY, JOY, JOY: Two former walk-ons, redshirt senior long snapper Ben Asbury and redshirt sophomore center Chandler Farrell, were rewarded for their hard work and dedication by being placed on scholarship for the 2018 season.
CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN: The Gamecocks do not pick permanent team captains until the end of the season. However, they return two of the four captains from 2017, Jake Bentley and D.J. Wonnum. Bentley and Wonnum became just the second and third sophomores to gain the distinction of team captain, joining Hayden Hurst (2016). Here the game captains:
COASTAL: Jake Bentley, T.J. Brunson, Deebo Samuel, Donell Stanley
SCHEDULING QUIRK: South Carolina is one of only two SEC schools, along with LSU, saddled with two bye disadvantages in 2018. The Gamecocks will play both Missouri and Ole Miss when those squads are coming off bye weeks. The Gamecocks do get one back when they have a bye week prior to their clash with Tennessee.
IT'S NEVER EASY: The Gamecocks are the only SEC team that twice has to play consecutive Saturday league games on the road: Vanderbilt and Kentucky on September 22 and 29; Ole Miss and Florida on November 3 and 10.
TOTING THE SHEEPSKIN: Six Gamecocks earned their undergraduate degree in May, including Bryson Allen-Williams, Ben Asbury, Jacob August, Javon Charleston, K.C. Crosby and Michael Scarnecchia. Malik Young earned his degree in August. Additionally, Nick Harvey (Texas A&M) and J.T. Ibe (Rice) joined the team as graduate transfers. Another 13 Gamecocks are slated to finish up their bachelor's degree in December, including Zack Bailey, Dennis Daley, Javion Duncan, Daniel Fennell, Danny Gordon, Caleb Kinlaw, Javon Kinlaw, Steven Montac, Christian Pellage, Deebo Samuel, Donell Stanley, Eldridge Thompson and Ty'Son Williams.
GRADUATION SUCCESS RATE: The Gamecocks ranked in a tie for fourth in the nation and second among FBS schools in the latest graduation success rate data. Carolina checked in with a 98 percent GSR, behind only Dartmouth (100), Harvard (100) and Northwestern (99).
UP NEXT: The Gamecocks will play their third-straight home game next week when they host the Marshall Thundering Herd, out of Conference USA. The 7:30 pm contest will be televised on ESPNU. South Carolina and Marshall have met just once previously, with the Herd posting a 24-21 win in Columbia on September 19, 1998. Marshall posted a 35-28 win at Miami (O) to open the season and hosts Eastern Kentucky in its home opener this weekend.