Ranking of opponents of 2022 by difficulty

COLUMBIA — Few other programs in college football have generated as much momentum this offseason as South Carolina.

The Gamecocks exceeded most pundits’ expectations last season with a 7-6 win topped off by a dominating win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. One of the transfer portal’s top-rated players, quarterback Spencer Rattler, signed in December after leaving Oklahoma after the 2021 season and completed spring training at Columbia.

More football coverage of South Carolina:

With all attention turned to 2022, can South Carolina capitalize on what Beamer is building and turn the momentum into wins?

Here are the Gamecocks’ opponents in 2022, in order from easiest to toughest.

12. State of South Carolina (home)

USC has had an FCS game on its schedule recently and this one features a visit from South Carolina State. The Gamecocks host the Bulldogs on Oct. 1 ahead of six straight SEC games. South Carolina should be favored by more than four touchdowns.

11. Charlotte (at home)

This season will be the 49ers’ final season in Conference USA before they join the American Athletic Conference. Head coach Will Healy has created some excitement around Charlotte football in recent seasons, but some of his better players have made the transfer and without them it will be difficult to upset South Carolina.

10. Vanderbilt (away)

Undoubtedly, the Commodores gave the Gamecocks one of their biggest scares in Beamer’s first season about Homecoming. USC needed a last-minute touchdown drive to win 21-20. South Carolina has a much larger roster this season, which will lead to a bigger gap between the two teams.

9. State of Georgia (Home)

The Gamecocks’ season opener could be a little tougher than expected. The Panthers, coached by former USC interim head coach Shawn Elliott, are coming off an eight-win season, including an impressive bowl win. There are many storylines heading into the opening game.

8. Missouri (home)

The Tigers beat South Carolina at home last season, but they’ve been hit hard by attrition marked by the departure of running back Tyler Badie. Beamer improved his roster and with Mizzou joining USC, home advantage could come into play this game.

7. Florida (away)

Billy Napier should bring the Gators back to the fore in the SEC East. But it won’t happen in 2022. South Carolina beat Florida with a less talented team last season. The Gamecocks appear primed to make it back-to-back on the series.

6. Kentucky (away)

It feels like South Carolina and Kentucky are mirror images of each other. Kentucky defeated USC last season and with most of their key playmakers back, the Wildcats are going to be a tough game down the road for the Gamecocks.

5. Tennessee (home)

South Carolina’s final SEC game of the season and ahead of its annual rivalry showdown with Clemson, the game against Tennessee could have many repercussions. The volunteers made it to USC in Knoxville in 2021 and they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

4. Arkansas (away)

Speaking of budding programs, Arkansas made a splash in 2021, ending the season in 21st place after wins over Texas A&M, Texas, LSU and a narrow loss at Alabama. Fayetteville will be South Carolina’s road test of 2022 in week two and could be a tone setter for both teams.

3. Texas A&M (Home)

Since A&M joined the SEC and established itself as a constant cross-divisional opponent, South Carolina has not beaten the Aggies in seven straight seasons. Jimbo Fisher will have another deep team and will be a tough test for USC.

2. Clemson (away)

One of the biggest questions surrounding college football is whether Clemson’s struggles in 2021 are a fluke or a sign of change. The Tigers will be good on defense again, but it’s undetermined who will start Dabo Swinney at quarterback DJ Uiagalelei or newcomer Cade Klubnik.

More on Clemson’s QBs: Clemson quarterbacks DJ Uiagalelei and Cade Klubnik are both in the preseason hype for the Heisman Trophy

1. Georgia (home)

The Bulldogs are the reigning national champions and will be playing at this caliber again in 2022. Kirby Smart has lost some key figures on the defensive side of the ball, but the roster remains full of top talent.

Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his work on Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN. Have questions about athletics in South Carolina? Send them to Cory Diaz at [email protected].

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