South Carolina is coming off a tough loss to Georgia that leaves the Gamecocks scrambling to regain ground in the SEC East.
The Bulldogs now have the upper hand, though all hope is not lost. South Carolina's team is still very talented, and head coach Steve Spurrier has a very deep roster.
This team has experienced the early-season hardship of a brutal loss to Georgia and should have the resiliency to fight back, but it is going to take a lot.
Here are the three biggest early-season storylines for the Gamecocks.
1. Can the Gamecocks work their way into the SEC Championship Game?
The South Carolina-Georgia showdown on September 7 was talked about all offseason as the major checkpoint along the way to an SEC title game berth. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, Georgia now owns control of the division.
South Carolina needs some help. Georgia has to slip up, though that could be a long shot.
The SEC East has a trio of top squads at the top and then the rest, but the SEC is still a deep conference, and no one can afford to slip up.
South Carolina needs to avoid a downward-trending domino effect after its loss to Georgia.
The path to the SEC title game is still there.
Can the Gamecocks find a way to it?
2. Will Jadeveon Clowney bounce back?
Clowney had an insane amount of hype heading into the season.
With two subpar performances, questions of his conditioning—regardless of the stomach virus story—and a lack of defensive involvement, Clowney is taking a lot of flak.
His talent is not in question. His heart is not in question.
So, what will it take for Clowney to get back on track and terrorize teams again?
A lighter SEC schedule in the wake of the Georgia loss should help the star defensive end.
Clowney wants to be used more creatively on defense, and this could help his production.
3. What will Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward do to fix the defense?
South Carolina's defense was far less than stellar in the loss to Georgia.
They gave up a handful of long passing plays, including a deadly 85-yard touchdown from Murray to wide receiver Justin Scott-Wesley.
The secondary needs some help with its coverage, but some of the issue turns back to Clowney and the defensive line. The Gamecocks need a better pass rush so that quarterbacks get disrupted from their rhythm.
The defense is still young and is in need of a boost.
Ward and Spurrier will search for creative ways to set this defense up for success as the season goes on.