COLUMBIA – Few other programs in college football have generated as much momentum this offseason as South Carolina.
The Gamecocks exceeded expectations from most pundits last season by going 7-6, capped by a dominating win over North Carolina in Duke’s Mayo Bowl. One of the highest-rated players in the transfer portal, quarterback Spencer Rattler, signed in December after leaving Oklahoma following the 2021 season and went through spring practice in Columbia.
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As attention turns to 2022, can South Carolina capitalize on what Beamer is building and turn the momentum into wins?
Here are the Gamecocks’ opponents in 2022, ranked in order from easiest to toughest.
12. South Carolina State (home)
USC has had an FCS game on its schedule of late and this one features a visit from South Carolina State. The Gamecocks host the Bulldogs on Oct. 1 before six straight SEC games. South Carolina should be favored by more than four touchdowns.
11. Charlotte (home)
This season will be the 49ers' final season in Conference USA before joining the American Athletic Conference. Head coach Will Healy has generated some buzz around Charlotte football the last couple of seasons, but some of its better players transferred and without them, it’ll be tough to upset South Carolina.
10. Vanderbilt (away)
No doubt the Commodores gave the Gamecocks one of their biggest scares in Beamer’s first season on homecoming. USC needed a last-minute touchdown drive to win, 21-20. South Carolina has a much deeper roster this season and that’ll provide a wider gap between the two teams.
9. Georgia State (home)
The Gamecocks’ season opener might be a little trickier 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 plenty of story lines 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, headlined by the departure of running back Tyler Badie. Beamer in improved his roster and, with Mizzou coming to USC, homefield advantage could factor into this game.
7. Florida (away)
Billy Napier should get the Gators back to prominence in the SEC East. But it won’t happen in 2022. South Carolina beat Florida last season with a less talented team. The Gamecocks appear primed to make it two in a row in the series.
6. Kentucky (away)
It feels like South Carolina and Kentucky are mirror images of each other. Kentucky edged USC last season and, with most of their key playmakers back, the Wildcats will be a difficult game on the road for the Gamecocks.
5. Tennessee (home)
South Carolina’s final SEC game of the season, and coming before the annual rivalry showdown with Clemson, the game with Tennessee could hold plenty of ramifications. The Volunteers put it on USC in Knoxville in 2021 and don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.
4. Arkansas (away)
Speaking of programs on the rise, Arkansas turned plenty of heads in 2021, finishing the season ranked 21st after wins over Texas A&M, Texas, LSU and a close defeat at Alabama. Fayetteville will be South Carolina’s road test in 2022 in week two and it could be a tone setter for both teams.
3. Texas A&M (home)
Since A&M joined the SEC and was established as the permanent cross-division 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 around college football is whether Clemson’s struggles in 2021 are a fluke or a sign of a change. The Tigers will be good on defense again but it’s undetermined who Dabo Swinney will start at quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei or freshman Cade Klubnik.
More on Clemson's QBs: Clemson quarterbacks D.J. Uiagalelei, Cade Klubnik both in preseason Heisman Trophy hype
1. Georgia (home)
The Bulldogs are the reigning national champions and will play at the that caliber again in 2022. Kirby Smart lost some key pieces on the defensive side of the ball but the roster remains stacked with top talent.
Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA TODAY Network. Follow his work for all things Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN. Got questions regarding South Carolina athletics? Send them to Cory Diaz at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Greenville News: South Carolina football schedule 2022: Ranking opponents by difficulty