This neatly sums up my view of South Carolina going into the season:
But while the Gamecocks went 9-4 last season, they only had 7.1 second-order wins. That essentially means that given how the Gamecocks actually performed in their games last year — based on stats like success rates, explosive plays, field position, turnovers, etc. — the Gamecocks could have expected to lose the North Carolina State game 79 percent of the time and the Vanderbilt game 57 percent of the time. Significantly fewer second-order wins than a team’s actual record generally gives some indication that a team could be due for some regression to the mean. That’s reflected in South Carolina’s 2017 F/+ ranking of 57th — near Missouri, Texas A&M, and Ole Miss, who all went either 7-6 or 6-6. The Gamecocks were the second-worst nine-win team in the country last year (behind just 9-5 North Texas).
The Gamecocks return an insane amount of offensive production from last season, but they return just 47 percent of their defensive production from 2017 (119th). They lose four of their top five defensive playmakers in end Dante Sawyer, linebacker Skai Moore, safety Chris Lammons, and corner JaMarcus King. Together those four accounted for 17 tackles for loss and 30 pass breakups. Moore led the team in tackles, run stuffs, and interceptions, and was second in tackles for loss. The pass defense is a particular concern with Lammons and King gone from a unit that ranked 55th in passing S&P+, 86th in passing success rate, and 89th in adjusted sack rate last season. Moore’s importance can’t be overstated, either — he led the team in tackles every season that he was healthy.
None of this is to say South Carolina is going to be bad this season. Peltier says the ‘Cocks should be solid in 2018, and that’s likely a fair assessment. But between regression to the mean, big holes to fill on defense and a new offensive scheme, there would seem to be more questions about Boom’s team than there are about Georgia. Plus, any comparison between the two starts with a talent deficiency in Columbia.
As Peltier concludes, “… their odds in the East should be viewed as roughly equivalent to Florida’s”. Sounds right to me.