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Toughest stretch: South Carolina Gamecocks

In the era of the College Football Playoff, one loss won’t ruin your season.

But go on a bad run, and you’re done.

With that in mind, we’re examining the most challenging stretches of games for all 14 teams in the SEC.

Next up in our series: the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Toughest stretch: Nov. 4-Nov. 25

There are two nasty stretches on South Carolina’s schedule – the other is a three-game span between Sept. 30 and Oct. 14 where the Gamecocks will play at Texas A&M, host Arkansas and visit Tennessee – but the challenging November slate gets the nod here.

The Gamecocks got to bowl eligibility by winning four of their last six games in 2016 – including an upset win over a ranked Tennessee club – but it’s going to be awfully difficult to finish so well this year.

They open the season’s final month with a visit to Georgia, in an SEC East rivalry where the Bulldogs have reclaimed the upper hand since South Carolina’s first three-game winning streak against Georgia (2010-2012) was one of the highlights of the Steve Spurrier era.

The following week, the Gamecocks will host defending division champion Florida, the school where Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp flamed out just three years ago. Florida and Georgia will be two of the division favorites this year, so playing them back to back in the last two SEC games of the season is hardly ideal for Muschamp’s club.

The Gamecocks get a bit of a breather after the Florida game, accepting a Nov. 18 visit from FCS opponent Wofford ahead of the most emotional game of the year. The season finale against in-state rival Clemson on Nov. 25 is annually the game South Carolina fans want most. That might be even more true now that Clemson is coming off a national title run and a 56-7 shellacking of the Gamecocks to complete the regular season.

There was a time under Spurrier where South Carolina dominated the Palmetto Bowl, but those days are long gone now that Clemson has won three in a row. Contending in the East might be Muschamp’s main objective, but his figuring out a way to level the Clemson series might be the key to his job security in Columbia. Doing so at the end of a challenging second-half slate will be a tall order, even if Clemson must visit the Gamecocks’ Williams-Brice Stadium this season.