Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks want to get back to the SEC Championship Game and make a possible run at the BCS National Championship. Al Dannity assesses the chances for South Carolina in 2012.
The schedule The Gamecocks avoid Alabama this year but they have two dates later in the season that will be cause for concern. Starting the season at Vanderbilt, the other USC plays three straight at home against East Carolina, UAB, and Missouri. A road game follows at Kentucky before a possible SEC East deciding match-up at home against Georgia.
The toughest stretch of South Carolina’s SEC slate comes after their meeting with the Dawgs. Back-to-back trips to LSU and Florida follow in the two weeks after the Georgia game. The Gamecocks then host Tennessee and Arkansas to complete their conference schedule. The regular season closes with a cupcake against Wofford and a trip to Clemson.
The players The Gamecocks are loaded for 2012 and they need to be with that schedule. Marcus Lattimore returns to the backfield and the nightmares of SEC defences. Connor Shaw established himself as a successor to Steven Garcia last year and will have full control of a unit that brings back 8 starters in all. On defense the Gamecocks are just plain scary. They bring back 7 starters including Jadeveon Clowney, arguably the finest defender in College Football. Special teams however is a cause for concern. South Carolina will be breaking in new starters at both kicker and punter, leaving big questions for tight games.
The outlook Schedules can be cruel mistresses. A loaded one can bring hardship but also great reward if a team runs the table. A lighter late leaves little room for error but fewer moments of worry. The Gamecocks will be favorites in at least 10 games this season, including the game against UGA, but there are two over which a nagging doubt must hang. The trips to LSU and the home date with the Razorbacks will make or break the Gamecocks season. Going 0-2 would endanger their chances of winning the SEC East, considering Georgia’s lighter slate, while going 2-0 would make them front-runners for the National Championship. I’m going to split the difference here. The road trip against the Tigers should be too much of a challenge for the Gamecocks. Marcus Lattimore however can carry the load and kill the clock in Columbia against the Hogs. I like South Carolina to go 11-1 this year and make it back to the SEC Championship Game.
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