COLUMBIA (The Greenville News) – With its bye week over, South Carolina enters the second half of the football season hoping to improve on its 2-4 record.
As the Gamecocks prepare to host Massachusetts Saturday, they will probably be favored to win only two of their remaining six games.
UMASS: The Minutemen will enter Williams-Brice Stadium with a 1-6 record. They own a four-game losing streak, falling to Mississippi State, Tulane, Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech.
Although UMass held an early fourth-quarter lead against Mississippi State, there have been few positives in recent weeks. The team is scoring 19.7 points per game, while allowing 33.3.
Running back Marquis Young has rushed for 544 yards, while quarterback Andrew Young has completed 103 of 162 passes for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has been intercepted eight times.
The matchup could be coming at the right time for a USC offense that is averaging a meager 14.2 points per game. Teams have exploited the Minutemen both through the air (262.4 yards per game) and on the ground (206.1 yards).
TENNESSEE: The Volunteers have had their way with USC recently. They will enter Williams-Brice Stadium on Oct. 29th the owners of a three-game winning streak in the series.
The offense starts and ends with quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who has had his ups and downs this season.
He has passed for 1,525 yards and 13 touchdowns in the Vols initial seven games. That has helped the team earn a 5-2 record.
Despite losses its last two games to top-10 teams Texas A&M and Alabama, Tennessee may have too much firepower for the Gamecocks to have a legitimate chance to win the game.
The good news for USC, which will be a significant underdog, is the Vols have won the last three games against the Gamecocks by only a combined eight points.
MISSOURI: The Tigers were set to become a SEC Eastern Division title contender when they appeared headed to a win over Georgia.
The Bulldogs pulled out a last-second victory, however, which appears to have thrown the Tigers into a downward spiral.
Still searching for its initial SEC victory, Missouri is coming off back-to-back dominating losses to LSU and Florida.
It’s hard to say what the Tigers' trajectory will be when they come to South Carolina on Nov. 5. At the moment, however, they appear to be the Gamecocks best opportunity to earn a second league win.
Quarterback Drew Lock has passed for 14 touchdowns, while suffering six interceptions. He has completed a little more than 50 percent of his passes, however.
The defense, a long-time Missouri staple, has allowed 82 points in its last two games against LSU and Florida. Whether first-year coach Barry Odom can turn that around will be key to the team’s potential second-half success.
FLORIDA: A win over Missouri Saturday put the Gators in the pole position to claim the SEC East title as they prepare for their upcoming game against Georgia.
The Gators are 5-1 overall and 3-1 in league play. It’s hard to see how USC will not be a huge underdog when it heads to Ben Hill Griffin Stadium to play on Steve Spurrier Field Nov. 12.
Quarterback Luke Del Rio has passed for 998 yards and seven touchdowns but has suffered five interceptions. Austin Appleby has completed 61.1 percent of his 72 passes for 470 yards and three scores. He has been picked off once.
Antonio Galloway is the Gators' top receiver with 23 catches for 399 yards and two touchdowns.
WESTERN CAROLINA: All Gamecock fans remember what happened against The Citadel last season. It is difficult to think that will happen against the Catamounts.
The team is 1-5 overall and 0-4 in Southern Conference play. Included is a 52-7 loss to East Carolina.
CLEMSON: South Carolina will travel to Death Valley to face a Clemson team that could be playing for an undefeated regular season.
The Tigers have won the last two games in the rivalry and will be overwhelming favorites to extend that streak.
The Gamecock defense has had its moments, holding each of its six opponents below its season scoring average. Keeping the Clemson offense, led by quarterback Deshaun Watson, in check will be its biggest job of the season.
An even bigger task for USC will be finding a way to score points against the Tigers' defense.