SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Football forecast: 10-2 for both the South Carolina and Clemson
Wait ’til this year.
The first year South Carolina and Clemson collide in a college football game with both programs ranked among the nation’s top 10.
Winner? Not sure yet. But both the Tigers and Gamecocks will depart Death Valley on Nov. 24 with identical, if not equally relished, 10-2 records.
Both have national star power — Marcus Lattimore and Jadeveon Clowney for South Carolina, Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd for Clemson. They have some new blockers and old depth issues.
Both have Sunshine State road games that might decide division titles: Clemson at Florida State on Sept. 22, South Carolina at Florida on Oct. 20.
A football spin around the Palmetto State, via the best backroads and barbecue joints in the country (records do not include postseason):
I know. I know. You want to congratulate me for my 12-0 prediction for the Gamecocks last season. Well, thanks. While Stephen Garcia/Connor Shaw and Co. were not perfect, they did set a school record with 11 victories. Can you believe South Carolina is 8-0 over the last two seasons against Clemson, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee?
Sure wins: East Carolina (Sept. 8), UAB (Sept. 15), Wofford (Nov. 17).
Sure losses: None.
Probable wins: at Vanderbilt (Aug. 30), Missouri (Sept. 22), at Kentucky (Sept. 29), Tennessee (Oct. 27), Arkansas (Nov. 10).
Probable losses: at LSU (Oct. 13).
Helmet scratchers: Georgia (Oct. 6), at Florida (Oct. 20), at Clemson (Nov. 24).
Barometer game: Georgia. Odd to wait so long for a big test, but the schedule is nicely paved until the gauntlet begins.
Record: 10-2. Maybe the SEC championship game. Definitely another nice bowl game.
Perhaps you heard about the Orange Bowl, Clemson’s 70-33 debacle against West Virginia. That led to defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s dismissal. Brent Venables, the much respected new guy, must have better tackling from linebackers such as sophomores Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony. Or, Clemson will have to score 71 points.
Sure wins: Ball State (Sept. 8), Furman (Sept. 15), at Duke (Nov. 3).
Sure losses: None.
Probable wins: Auburn (Sept. 1), at Boston College (Sept. 29), Georgia Tech (Oct. 6), at Wake Forest (Oct. 25), Maryland (Nov. 10), N.C. State (Nov. 17).
Probable losses: at Florida State (Sept. 22).
Helmet scratchers: Virginia Tech (Oct. 20), South Carolina (Nov. 24).
Barometer game: Right away, against Auburn in Atlanta. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris is in his second year at Clemson and the other three coordinators are in their first seasons at their respective schools.
Record: 10-2 with a shot an ACC championship repeat.
Basic game plan: Star punter Cass Couey buries foes with unfavorable field position, the defense plays tough, the offense grinds it out and the Bulldogs make progress.
Great news: Charleston Southern was picked to finish last in the official Big South Conference preseason poll. The last time this happened, in 2005, Jay Mills’ battling Bucs tied for the league title.
The Bulldogs play at Arizona and Texas A&M but get MEAC favorite Norfolk State at home (S.C. State was picked second in the official MEAC poll). James Island High School grad Leon Smith, a junior, is one of the league’s best defensive tackles.
The Paladins are guaranteed for football success as long as former wide receiver Bear Rinehart’s NeedToBreathe band continues to gain popularity. This year, defensive end Josh Lynn and free safety Greg Worthy lead a Furman team capable of an FCS playoff run.
Eric Breitenstein was the leading rusher in the Southern Conference last season and as a senior might average every carry per game.
The new Coastal Carolina head coach is richer than Kuwait and the inventor of the chicken burrito combined. But what does Joe Moglia bring to the table? Answer: A solid nucleus of holdover talent led by reliable left tackle Jamey Cheatwood.
The Blue Hose play Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt, back to back in September. But a winning season is possible for the upstart program picked to finish smack in the middle of the seven-team Big South.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff