Monday, February 27, 2017

Farwell to 2016: South Carolina Gamecocks

The SEC had a down year compared to other years, as Alabama was the lone team to win 10 games or more in 2016. That is an unusual turn of events for the self proclaimed best conference in college football. The East was still down, as Florida and Tennessee continued to struggle despite having high expectations. Georgia is still trying to find themselves under Kirby Smart. LSU made a mess of the Les Miles situation. Ole Miss was clouded over by off-field issues. Here is a look back at the 2016 SEC season, on a team by team basis.

South Carolina Gamecocks
6-7 (3-5)

2016 Schedule
Beat Vanderbilt 13-10
Lost to Mississippi State 27-14
Beat East Carolina 20-15
Lost to Kentucky 17-10
Lost to Texas A&M 24-13
Lost to Georgia 28-14
Beat U Mass 34-28
Beat Tennessee 24-21
Beat Missouri 31-21
Lost to Florida 20-7
Beat Western Carolina 44-21
Lost to Clemson 56-7
Lost to South Florida 46-39 (Birmingham Bowl)

MVP Offense: QB Jake Bentley
Although he did not play until the U Mass game, Bentley gave the Gamecocks direction at QB that they had not had in some time. He passed for 6 TDs in his first three games, and did not throw a pick until his fourth start. In total, he passed for 9 scores and 4 INTs on the year, and passed for 1420 yards. He also completed 65.8% of his passes on 27.1 attempts per game, and will enter 2017 as the foremost favorite to be the starter from day one.
MVP Defense: DL Darius English, DB Jamarcus King
English, a senior, was yet another amongst a group of big stars on the D line in the last several seasons. He finished with 60 tackles, and provided 13.5 TFLs, added 9 sacks, and posted 5 QB hurries and 2 forced fumbles.
King recorded 56 tackles, 51 of them being solo jobs. He also added 9 PBUs and 3 INTs on the season, and was an anchor in the secondary during his junior season.
Others of Note
The Gamecocks were held to just 134 yards rushing per game.
WR Deebo Samuel finished with a line of 59-783-1, while Hayden Hurst added 48-616-1 as a TE. Bryan Edwards dumped in 44-590-4 to give the Gamecocks three receivers with 44 receptions or more.
Junior DB DJ Smith led the team with 80 tackles.
South Carolina soundly lost the tackle efficiency battle, as they had to make 73.23 per game, while opponents made only 66.46 per game.
The South Carolina  offensive line allowed a massive 102 TFLs, and 41 sacks.
Gamecock QBs had 47 passes deflected and were hurried 34 times.
South Carolina converted on just 34% of 3rd down conversions.
Senior Punter Sean Kelly capped off his career by averaging just over 42 yards per punt.
Best Win: Tennessee 24-21
Tennessee was a big favorite to win the East but yet finished with just four wins. This win came in a group where the Gamecocks had won four of five to get into the post season.
Worst Loss: Mississippi State 27-14, Clemson 56-7
Mississippi State was the second worst team in the West, and dropped the Gamecocks to 1-1 in conference play before the first month was up. It proved that the Gamecocks were not going to make a run in the first season under Will Muschamp.
The loss to arch rival Clemson was one of the worst in school history, and showed a massive disparity between the two schools.
2017 Non Conference Schedule: 9/2 NC State at Charlotte, 9/23 Louisiana Tech, 11/18 Wofford, 11/25 Clemson
With Bentley at QB, I look for South Carolina to improve in 2017, but only if the line improves massively in front of him. NC State should be a win, as should the Wofford game, but can the defense keep pace with Louisiana Tech? The Clemson game should be more even with several Tigers having moved on from this two year title run. I can see a 2-2 run coming here.

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