The 203 official football schedule for South Carolina was released on Wednesday afternoon, with a surprise or two thrown in there. South Carolina already knew when and where they would play their eight conference games as the SEC released their schedule several weeks ago, but they did not know exactly when their non-conference games would be. That question was answered Thursday.
South Carolina opens the season on August 31st against North Carolina. This is the first surprise of the schedule on two fronts. The fact that North Carolina finally lived up to their end of the bargain after dropping the 2010 scheduled match-up to play LSU in Atlanta. North Carolina will finally make the trip down to Columbia following the 2007 Carolina win in Chapel Hill. The second surprise of the schedule is the fact that this contest was originally a Thursday night match-up, but instead will be on Saturday unless there is a change.
The Georgia game will move back to the second week of the season after an October meeting this season. It turned out to benefit the rivalry as both teams entered the game in the top 10. Spurrier joked prior to the season that he could always count on several Georgia players being suspended for the game. It did not matter this season as the Gamecocks rolled to a 35-7 win, but we'll see if Georgia is minus a few key players next season.
After a home meeting with Vanderbilt in week three, South Carolina will get their first of two bye weeks on September 21st. Since there are 14 weeks between Labor Day weekend, the beginning weekend of college football, and the final week in November, teams will be given two bye weeks in 2013. The first bye comes at a good time for Carolina as they would have already played two conference games and will know where they stand early on in the season.
Following the bye, Carolina will travel down to Orlando to take on UCF. That was originally scheduled to be the season opener before the North Carolina game was scheduled. UCF is one of the tougher non-BCS programs and having two weeks to prepare for the Golden Knights will benefit the Gamecocks.
South Carolina will return home to face Kentucky before heading for a three-game conference road trip. Carolina is not the only SEC team to play three consecutive conference road games, but they are the only team to do so in consecutive weeks. Other teams either have a bye week or a non-conference game as a buffer. With that said, it will not be the most difficult of road stretches and certainly does not compare to playing LSU and Florida on the road in back-to-back weeks this season.
They will face an Arkansas team that will certainly have a new coach and be without quarterback Tyler Wilson and wide receiver Cobi Hamilton and likely won't have running back Knile Davis, who should enter the draft.
Carolina will then travel to Knoxville to take on Tennessee, who very likely could be breaking in a new coach and likely won't have quarterback Tyler Bray as Bray will probably enter the draft following the season. They end the stretch with a road contest against Missouri, who is still trying to find their way in SEC play.
Following the road stretch Carolina will return home to take on Mississippi State, a team that is much improved this season and could be even better next year under head coach Dan Mullen. It took a late touchdown and interception for Carolina to knock of the Bulldogs in 2011 on the road.
Much like this season, Carolina will have their second bye week before the final three games of the season. It will be a huge bye week as Florida will be coming to Columbia the following week in a game that could decide the SEC East champion. The Gators will be the last conference opponent for the Gamecocks and could be the team that will decide Carolina's destiny.
The last surprise on the schedule is the November 23rd meeting with Coastal Carolina as the two teams will meet for the first time on the gridiron. Carolina was originally slated to face South Carolina State on September 21st, but that would have caused Carolina to play the first ten games of the season without a break and have bye weeks before and after the Florida game. Carolina was able to get Coastal to agree to a meeting on the 23rd to allow the Gamecocks to drop the contest with SC State and still keep up with its tradition of playing an in-state FCS school to boost their revenue.
"Since moving to a 12-game football schedule, we have annually played one of our in-state FCS schools," Ray Tanner, South Carolina's athletic director, said in a statement. "We are happy to add Coastal Carolina to that rotation with a game at Williams-Brice Stadium. It will mark the first meeting ever on the gridiron between the Gamecocks and Chanticleers, and we look forward to seeing a great turnout from both teams' fans from the beach area as they make their way to Columbia for that contest."
Since Coastal left South Carolina as one of its state-wide branches, tension has been high between the two schools. It reached a boiling point in 2010 when the two teams met on the diamond in a Super Regional played in Myrtle Beach. Coastal was part of the 2012 Columbia Regional, but the two teams never met.
As usual, South Carolina will close the season out with its meeting with rival Clemson on November 30th.
North Carolina – August 31st, Columbia
Georgia – September 7th, Athens
Vanderbilt – September 14th, Columbia
Open – September 21st
Central Florida – September 28th, Orlando
Kentucky – October 5th, Columbia
Arkansas – October 12th, Fayetteville
Tennessee – October 19th, Knoxville
Missouri – October 26th, Columba (MO)
Mississippi State – November 2nd, Columbia
Open – November 9th
Florida – November 16th, Columbia
Coastal Carolina – November 23rd, Columbia
Clemson – November 30th, Columbia
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