Gene Sapakoff is a columnist and College Sports Editor at The Post and Courier with focus mostly on Clemson, South Carolina, SEC and ACC athletics. But also golf, the Charleston RiverDogs, Atlanta Braves, Carolina Panthers. And road food.

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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp will not meet on the football field this season as coronavirus-adjusted schedules don't include the annual rivalry game. The teams are expected to go their separate directions with 2020 won-loss records, too. File/Gavin McIntyre/Staff

The view from the driver’s seat is usually so colorful as school mascots from across South Carolina file onto the Preseason Prediction Bus, always done up in psychedelic swirls.

The bus isn’t as crowded this year with Charleston Southern, S.C. State, Furman, Wofford and Presbyterian opting out of fall football for coronavirus reasons.

But that Gamecock garnet, Clemson orange, Citadel blue and Chanticleer teal still go together beautifully this time of year — even if South Carolina and Clemson are not currently scheduled to clash on the field.

The bus rolls on, hopefully without breaking down or having to pull over for lengthy delays.

Bold, astute (and colorful) predictions for the Palmetto State’s four NCAA Division I teams still planning to play:

The Citadel

This isn’t a football season, it’s an Academy Award-winning documentary unfolding (starring Spike The Bulldog as himself). The cast is a plucky bunch of guys from The Military College of South Carolina.

The Bulldogs were No. 19 in an Athlon Sports poll of FCS teams posted before conferences started stopping football. They are the only team among the state’s six FCS programs to forge ahead this fall.

It’s just four games but, pound for pound, is the toughest schedule in school history (and there’s still the possibility of Southern Conference games this spring).

Three of the four opponents are FBS programs but South Florida, in former Clemson offensive coordinator Jeff Scott’s first year as a head coach, is No. 99 in analyst Phil Steele’s preseason national ranking.

Army is No. 93.

Sure wins: None

Sure losses: at Clemson (Sept. 19)

Probable wins: Eastern Kentucky (Sept. 26)

Probable losses: at Army (Oct. 10)

Helmet scratcher: at South Florida (Sept. 12)

Trap game alert: Eastern Kentucky

Most overrated foe: South Florida

Most underrated foe: Army

Barometer game: South Florida

Record with original schedule: 8-3

Record with current schedule: 2-2


The No. 1-ranked Tigers’ 11-game schedule includes 10 ACC games and the non-conference game with The Citadel. Only one opponent is rannked in the preseason AP poll (No. 10 Notre Dame).

This Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne-led group sure looks like one of Dabo Swinney’s best Clemson teams, which is saying something for a program shooting for a third national championship in five seasons.

No Big Ten fall football means no revenge-minded, super-talented Ohio State lurking down the road, a shame for fans looking for a great game in January.

Sure wins: at Wake Forest (Sept. 12), The Citadel (Sept. 19), at Georgia Tech (Oct. 17), Syracuse (Oct. 24), Boston College (Oct. 31), Pittsburgh (Nov. 28)

Sure losses: None

Probable wins: Virginia (Oct. 3), Miami (Oct. 10), at Florida State (Nov. 21), at Virginia Tech (Dec. 5)

Probable losses: None

Helmet scratcher: at Notre Dame (Nov. 7)

Trap game alert: Pittsburgh

Most overrated foe: Florida State

Most underrated foe: Miami

Barometer game: Miami

Record with original schedule: 15-0, national champs

Record with current schedule: 14-0, national champs

South Carolina

It’s a 10-game, SEC-only schedule with six teams ranked in the Associated Press preseason top 25.

That includes Auburn and Ole Miss subbing for Coastal Carolina, East Carolina, Wofford and Clemson in the schedule change.

There is depth on the defensive line. Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu head up what should be an improved secondary.

Inexperience on offense calls for innovation.

Most important thing to look for: Obvious progress aimed at a bowl-bound season in 2021.

Sure wins: at Vanderbilt (Oct. 10)

Sure losses: at Florida (Oct. 3), at LSU (Oct. 24), Georgia (Nov. 28)

Probable wins: Missouri (Nov. 21)

Probable losses: Auburn (Oct. 17), Texas A&M (Nov. 7)

Helmet scratchers: Tennessee (Sept. 26), at Ole Miss (Nov. 14), at Kentucky (Dec. 5)

Trap game alert: at Vanderbilt

Most overrated foe: at LSU

Most underrated foe: Texas A&M

Barometer game: Tennessee

Record with original schedule: 5-7

Record with current schedule: 2-8

Coastal Carolina

Can canning Kansas serve as the season highlight two years in a row? Maybe so but opening at Kansas isn’t the same for the Chanticleers as getting Les Miles’ Jayhawks at home and playing at South Carolina, the most exciting parts of the pre-COVID schedule.

As is, Coastal Carolina will play eight Sun Belt Conference games and three non-conference games.

Head coach Jamey Chadwell and Co., while steadily improving, are the popular pick to finish last in the Sun Belt East. The Chanticleers are No. 110 in Phil Steele’s national ranking — one spot above Kansas, which suffered a 12-7 loss to Teal Nation in 2019.

Sure wins: Campbell (Sept. 19),

Sure losses: None

Probable wins: at Texas State (Nov. 28)

Probable losses: at Louisiana (Oct. 17), Appalachian State (Nov. 21), Liberty (Dec. 5)

Helmet scratchers: at Kansas (Sept. 12), Arkansas State (Oct. 3), Georgia Southern (Oct. 24), at Georgia State (Oct. 29), South Alabama (Nov. 7), at Troy (Nov. 14)

Trap game alert: Arkansas State

Most overrated foe: South Alabama

Most underrated foe: Arkansas State

Barometer game: Kansas

Record with original schedule: 5-7

Record with current schedule: 4-7

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff