COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s 2012 football schedule features a new opponent, a familiar opener and the shifting of a traditional September game.
The Southeastern Conference released its schedule Wednesday, after making changes to accommodate the arrival of its 13th and 14th members — Texas A&M in the West Division, and Missouri in the East, where it joins USC. The Gamecocks will host Missouri on Sept. 22 in their SEC home opener. USC is 0-2 all-time against the Tigers.
Because the SEC is sticking with eight league games, for now, teams will play two cross-division games in 2012, rather than three. So Mississippi State will not make its return trip to Columbia, after USC went to Starkville in 2011. USC will continue its permanent cross-division relationship with Arkansas in 2012 by hosting the Razorbacks. USC will travel to SEC West opponent LSU, which meets Alabama in this season’s Bowl Championship Series title game.
South Carolina’s SEC East rival Georgia would appear to have an easier schedule from the West Division with a home game against Mississippi and a game at Auburn.
The SEC said Wednesday that the 2012 schedule is not based on any past or future formats. The league’s athletic directors will meet next spring to create a format for 2013 and beyond.
USC will have the national spotlight Aug. 30, a Thursday night, when it opens its season by playing the SEC’s first game of 2012, at Vanderbilt.
Opening on a Thursday is nothing new for the Gamecocks. They did it every season from 2005-10, except for 2007.
But since they joined the SEC in 1992, along with Arkansas, they had traditionally started their league schedule by playing Georgia. The exceptions to that were in 2004, 2006 and 2008. The Gamecocks met Georgia in the first or second overall game of the season every year since 1992, except for 2002, 2003 and 2008, when they played in the third game.
For USC’s first four years in the SEC, it played Georgia on the first weekend in September as the season opener. Though Georgia hasn’t been the season opener since 1995, USC played the Bulldogs on the second weekend of September every year from 1996-2011.
In 2012, that game will be Oct. 6 in Columbia — USC’s sixth game and fourth against SEC competition.
The Gamecocks’ off week won’t come until Nov. 3 — after nine straight games and back-to-back mid-October trips to LSU and Florida. They were tentatively scheduled to play East Carolina in early November, though that game wasn’t officially slotted until Wednesday, and it will be played in Week 2 — Sept. 8 in Columbia. The Gamecocks and Pirates have a five-game series scheduled that began in 2011 in Charlotte.