Path To The College Football Playoff: South Carolina Gamecocks
What does South Carolina have to do to get to the College Football Playoff?
What’s South Carolina’s path to get to the College Football Playoff?
South Carolina in the College Football Playoff? This year? Ever?
In terms of teams that might be in the mix throughout the season, no, it’s not as insane as it might seem.
Think of it this way. What would’ve happened if Florida beat Florida State last year and took down Alabama in the SEC title game?
Of course, the Gators got Rick-rolled by the Noles and Crimson Tide by a combined score of 85-29, but pretend those two went the other way. Let’s say they won those two games, to go along with a road win over LSU to close things out. At 11-2 with an SEC championship, would they have been in?
Winning the SEC title game takes things to another level, especially if the championship is over a loaded team from the West.
In 2012, then-Florida head coach Will Muschamp followed up a 7-6 season with a everything-went-right 11-1 regular season. The Gators missed out on playing for the SEC Championship thanks to a loss to Georgia, but with wins over tremendous Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State teams – all four finished with double-digit wins – they probably would’ve gotten into a four-team College Football Playoff had it been around then.
Could a South Carolina team that went 6-7 last year possibly be in the hunt for the SEC East title, and maybe more? Is there possibly a Gamecock path to the College Football Playoff?
Step One: Be Better At Playing College Football
The Gamecock offense has to score more, the defense has to be up to the normal Muschamp-level snuff, and the special teams have to be stronger.
There wasn’t enough production in the red zone for an offense that averaged fewer than 21 points per game and was 115th in the nation in total O. The defense got cranked up against the run, and was 113th in the nation in first downs allowed, but it was a year of transition – to put it mildly.
USC and Muschamp had to build things back up after the program started to sputter under Steve Spurrier, but there’s a veteran team returning with ten starters back on offense and seven returning on D, not to mention the return of star LB Skai Moore, who missed all of last year after a neck injury.
Step Two: Set Tone Right Away
South Carolina has won 16 of its last 17 openers, and it hasn’t always taken it easy with wins over some good ACC teams, some strong Group of Fivers, and with a few over the SEC. The lone loss was two years ago to Texas A&M – Spurrier’s last disaster team.
This year, USC has to beat NC State in Charlotte to kick things off, and it doesn’t matter how it looks as long as it’s a win. That goes for the entire Gamecock season.
Follow that up by wins at Missouri and in the home opener over Kentucky, and then beat a dangerous Louisiana Tech, and the Gamecocks will be on their way.
Obviously, that’s much easier said than done, but it’s a manageable run of four games for anyone with any dream of getting into the College Football Playoff debate. And then …
Step Three: Get To Week Off 6-1, At Worst
USC has to start out 4-0, or else forget it – the rest of the schedule has too many tough games.
With road games at Texas A&M and Tennessee wrapped around a date with Arkansas, the Gamecocks have to win two of those three considering what’s coming in November. It might not be pretty, and there might be a few mucked up battles to get there, but USC beat Tennessee last season and battled a bit in a 24-13 loss to A&M.
Arkansas might be good, but at least the Gamecocks don’t get Alabama, Auburn or LSU from the West.
Keep working with the premise. South Carolina has to come up with a tremendous first seven games before getting a week off to chill, getting through with a 6-1 start, and then …
Step Four: At Least Split With Georgia and Florida
Assuming there isn’t a home whiff over Vanderbilt after that week off, the Gamecocks have to at least split between the road game at Georgia and the home date with Florida. As long as they beat the one other team that’s deep in the SEC East hunt, the College Football Playoff chase is still alive.
The game with the Gators ends the SEC regular season on November 11th – South Carolina has to have taken the East. Even with two losses, it still might be alive as long as it’s able to …
Step Five: Take Down Clemson
Huh? An okay South Carolina team is going to rise up and be good enough to beat the defending national champ? It didn’t work last year in a 56-7 loss, but the 2015 Gamecocks almost pulled off the shocker in a 37-32 loss.
It’s been a while, losing three in a row, but USC had won five in a row in the series before that. Of course, new era, new series, new dynamic, but in Columbia, winning the rivalry game will be a must. It would also be a massive help if Clemson was very, very good again to offset the likely two South Carolina losses in this overall scenario. And then …
Step Six: Win The SEC Championship
Whether it’s Alabama, or LSU, or Auburn, or whoever takes down the SEC West title, the representative has to be 11-1 or better. The SEC Championship has to be set up like a playoff game, with the cachet of being the league’s winner enough to overcome a potential multi-loss regular season.
Obviously, if South Carolina is somehow, someway able to win the SEC title and finish 12-1, then it’s in the College Football Playoff no matter what.
So … What Are The Chances South Carolina Gets Into The 2017-2018 College Football Playoff?
It’s not going to happen, but remember, Iowa was right there in the hunt in the final moments against Michigan State two years ago, and North Carolina would’ve gotten in if it had beaten Clemson in the ACC Championship.
Last season, Colorado rose up and made things interesting, and Oklahoma State would’ve had an interesting claim had it beaten Oklahoma.
The South Carolina schedule isn’t all that horrible, the team gets just about everyone back, and the Muschamp style might be just the right fit to get through an improved SEC East.
Go ahead and dream, Gamecock fans. If the basketball team can make a run through the NCAA Tournament, maybe …