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Schedule analysis: South Carolina Gamecocks

As we inch closer to the start of the season, it’s time to review the schedules of every SEC team.

Whether it’s home vs. road, nonconference matchups or potential trap games, there’s a lot to get into.

We continue the series with the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Nonconference opponents (with 2015 record)

Sept. 17: East Carolina (5-7)

Oct. 22: UMass (3-9)

Nov. 19: Western Carolina (7-4)

Nov. 26: at Clemson (14-1)

SEC home games

Oct. 1: Texas A&M

Oct. 8: Georgia

Oct. 29: Tennessee

Nov. 5: Missouri

SEC road games

Sept. 1: Vanderbilt

Sept. 10: Mississippi State

Sept. 24: Kentucky

Nov. 12: Florida

Gut-check time: Will Muschamp will face a gut check right out of the gate, as three of his first four games as the Gamecocks' coach will come away from Williams-Brice Stadium. Muschamp's South Carolina debut will come at Vanderbilt in a premium Thursday night ESPN timeslot, and then his team will play two more conference games (Sept. 10 at Mississippi State and Sept. 24 at Kentucky) before the calendar turns to October. South Carolina dropped seven of its last eight games in a disastrous 2015, and the scheduling gods didn’t make it especially easy for Muschamp to halt that slide in his first several games in charge of a talent-deficient program.

Trap game: The Kentucky game has been a thriller in each of the last three seasons, and it comes at the end of a challenging first month for Muschamp's team. Mark Stoops' Wildcats have defeated the Gamecocks in each of the last two seasons and will also enter the fall with hopes of returning to bowl play. South Carolina missed the postseason in 2015, ending a seven-year run of bowl appearances. Kentucky has not played in a bowl since 2010 but came close with 5-7 records in each of the last two seasons and should have its best team in Stoops' four seasons.

Final analysis: The bigger challenge for Muschamp and his staff is restocking a roster whose quality slipped in the latter years of Steve Spurrier's tenure. That will take some time. The schedule Muschamp will face in his first season is not terribly daunting. If the Gamecocks make it through a road-heavy September relatively unscathed, they can look forward to having six of their next seven games at home. The first three nonconference games are winnable, although the regular-season finale at rival Clemson is a probable loss. ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Clemson a 94.1 percent chance of winning that in-state matchup. The FPI also favors the Gamecocks in just one conference game (Missouri) at this point. Furthermore, they are heavy underdogs against Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Texas A&M according to FPI projections. In other words, the statistics match what the eyeball test already indicated -- this will almost certainly be a rebuilding season for South Carolina.