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College Football Predictions: No. 45 South Carolina Gamecocks

The first season with Shane Beamer at the helm of the South Carolina program was about as mediocre as it gets. The Gamecocks alternated wins and losses in each of the last eight games during the regular season. After covering against the college football odds in the first three games, South Carolina was 3-6 against the spread in its final nine regular-season games.

South Carolina finished 13th out of 14 teams in the Southeastern Conference in both scoring offense and total offense. The hope is that the arrival of former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler will help make the offense significantly more explosive in 2022.

College football predictions: No. 45 South Carolina Gamecocks
Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

Beamer put together the eighth-rated class of incoming transfers in the country according to the 247sports.com database, so help is on the way. Five of the six transfers with the top grades are offensive players and they will have every chance to play right away.

Expectations are still fairly low with South Carolina (+12500) tied for 10th in the odds to win the SEC title, according to the sportsbook.

According to the college football picks, the expected regular-season win total is at 6½ with the odds at -140 of the Gamecocks going under.

South Carolina Gamecocks

2021 record: 7-6

2021 conference record: 3-5

Head coach: Shane  Beamer

Odds to win conference title: +8000

Spencer Rattler was a Heisman Trophy candidate heading into the 2021 season and was still showing up on the list of candidates before losing the starting quarterback job to Caleb Williams at Oklahoma. There are nine quarterbacks ahead of him in the current Heisman Trophy odds according to the sportsbook.

Tight end Austin Stogner, Rattler’s former teammate at Oklahoma, is also now at South Carolina. He will join Corey Rucker, Arkansas State’s top receiver in 2021, and Antwane Wells (83 catches 1,250 yards at James Madison in 2021) as key options in the passing game.

South Carolina had just one game with more than 300 passing yards a season ago and that could change in 2022. There was plenty of excitement within the program during spring practice and that should carry over into the fall.

Running back Lovasea Carroll comes in from Georgia while Wake Forest’s leading rusher, Christian Beal-Smith, is also a running back to watch.

Not all the pass catchers will be new to the program. Receiver Josh Vann led USC with 43 catches and 679 yards while tight end Jaheim Bell was second on the team with 30 catches and 497 receiving yards.

The offense will be aided by a healthy Dylan Wonnum. The four-year starting offensive lineman was limited to six games as the right tackle due to a back injury. He has seen time at both left and right tackle during his time with the Gamecocks.

South Carolina ran for 301 yards in a win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the program’s first bowl win since a Jan. 1, 2018 victory against Michigan. The entire starting offensive line of Jaylen Nichols, Vershon Lee, Jovaughn Gwyn, Eric Douglas and Tyshawn Wannamaker will be joining Wonnum.

South Carolina led the SEC with only 180.8 passing yards allowed. Some of that was a result of issues stopping the run but, still, that was the strength of the team in 2021. The Gamecocks’ 15 interceptions were second only behind the 16 posted by national champion Georgia.

Top tackler Jaylan Foster is gone but second-leading tackler Brad Johnson returns for his sixth season. R.J. Roderick is another top returning player. Defensive end Kingsley Enagbare is off to the NFL. However, Zacch Pickens and Jordan Strachan displayed some potential as pass rushers in 2021.

If not for the arrival of Rattler, the transfer of former Central Michigan safety Devonni Reed might have received more attention. Defensive lineman Terrell Dawkins (4½ sacks during the 2020 season) is another newcomer to keep an eye on after he transferred in from North Carolina State.

When it comes to other returning defensive players, cornerback Cam Smith was the only South Carolina player to make the first team in Athlon Magazine’s preseason All-SEC team.

2022 South Carolina Outlook

South Carolina lost 13 of the last 16 games leading to a coaching change following the 2020 season. There was some progress in 2021.

Rattler threw for more than 3,000 yards with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions during the 2020 season. He was completing 74 percent of his passes before losing his job at Oklahoma so it wasn’t as if he forgot how to play the position. There could be some growing pains with so many new players joining the team in key offensive positions.

All you need to know about the challenges facing Beamer and the Gamecocks is that South Carolina had the 25th-best class of incoming recruits and that ranks 11th among SEC programs.

It shouldn’t take long to figure out how good this team is with a Week 3 showdown with Georgia. South Carolina has some pretty intelligent scheduling with the next two games after meeting Georgia at home, facing Charlotte and South Carolina State.

The SEC opener will be against Arkansas and that will mark just the second meeting between the teams in the last nine seasons.

2022 South Carolina Schedule

Sept. 3 vs Georgia State

Sept. 10 at Arkansas

Sept. 17 vs. Georgia

Sept. 24 vs Charlotte

Oct. 1 vs South Carolina State

Oct. 8 at Kentucky

Oct. 22 vs Texas A&M

Oct. 29 vs Missouri

Nov. 5 at Vanderbilt

Nov. 12 at Florida

Nov. 19 vs Tennessee

Nov. 26 at Clemson

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