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FILE - In this Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017, file photo, South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley (19) attempts a pass against Clemson defensive end Austin Bryant (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

CFB Preview: South Carolina opens season with Coastal Carolina

You can smell it in the air and hear it in the winds: College Football is almost upon us. On opening Saturday, the South Carolina Gamecocks open their promising season at home against the in-state (but hardly a rival) Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. Let’s take a look at some storylines going into the game.

The “New-Look” Gamecock Offense

South Carolina Head Coach Will Muschamp is known for his defensive prowess as well as his ability to both recruit and coach up defensive players. The question for Muschamp once again revolves around fielding an offense that is, well, effective. Despite going 9-4 last season, the Gamecocks ranked only 88th in Offensive S&P+ (the advanced football analytics system designed by Bill Connelly) and that was the best unit offensive coordinator Kurt Roper had put on the field under Muschamp. Roper was fired in the offseason, and Bryan McClendon was promoted from receivers coach to offensive coordinator.

McClendon brings a more up-tempo attack for the Gamecocks, which suits the strengths of the roster. Quarterback Jake Bentley is a two-year starter and has flashed when allowed to play fast. The Gamecocks also have a versatile group of receivers in Deebo Samuel, Brian Edwards, and Shi Smith. If the offense has truly evolved, we will see it against the Chanticleers.

A Crowded Running Back Room

South Carolina recently released their depth chart for the first game against Coastal Carolina. The most interesting part was that all four running backs listed had an “OR” next to their name. This rotation includes Rico Dowdle, Ty’Son Williams, A.J. Turner, and Mon Denson. When asked about how the coaching staff approaches the rotation, Muschamp spoke about flow of the game with each running back.

The Gamecocks battled multiple injuries at the position last season. The rotation will look to both cultivate depth and prevent injuries.

An Ode to the Past

In a more fashion-oriented look, South Carolina announced it would be wearing new helmets with the script from the days of Joe Morrison for the season opener.  Muschamp said that the new helmets may return, but that will be decided later.

A Daunting Test for the Chanticleers

While South Carolina went 9-4 last season and expect to compete with Georgia for the SEC East, the Chanticleers are a different story. Coastal Carolina went 3-9 in 2017 and ranked a measly 111th overall in S&P+. Five different quarterbacks saw playing time last season. That’s not a good stat. Despite their struggles, they did win the last two games of the season. The test for the Chanticleers now is how much they can improve off that.

Coastal Carolina has a very small chance to beat South Carolina. The Gamecocks are an SEC team playing at home and are significantly more talented. What the Chanticleers can hope to do is make the game competitive and develop depth as they await the Sun Belt Conference schedule.

This is still the same team that took the Arkansas Razorbacks to the brink last season, eventually falling 39-38. Can they get one step closer against South Carolina?

What’s Next?

South Carolina hosts Coastal Carolina on September 1st at 12:00 P.M.

Next week, South Carolina hosts Georgia on September 8th at 3:30 P.M. Coastal Carolina hosts UAB at 7:00 P.M. on September 8th.

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