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College Football Top 25: South Carolina Gamecocks, No. 6

South Carolina Gamecocks [2011: 11-2 (6-2), Beat Nebraska 30-13 in Capital One Bowl]

Four-Year Trend: 2008 (7-6), 2009 (7-6), 2010 (9-5), 2011 (11-2)

Notable Player: Jadeveon Clowney, DE. Clowney is 6’6″ 260 who has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40. The Nation’s No. 1 Overall recruit in 2011 was used mostly as a spot pass rusher last year, and still racked up eight sacks, 12 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. This year, he should take a massive step forward, being used as an every down player and being shuttled around the field. The Gamecocks have even explored using him at middle linebacker. He should be a bonafide Heisman contender in 2013. He may reach that point sooner.

Top Newcomers: Mike Davis (RB), Shaq Roland (WR), Jordan Diggs (DB)

Notable Spurrier: The Head Ball Coach took shots at Richt, Saban and Miles, had a quotable SEC Media Day and sported a fashion-forward bucket visor. He also has Dabo Swinney completely psyched out.

Why We Like Them: In 2011, the Gamecocks had their senior starting quarterback implode and lost their elite running back for the season. They still finished 11-2. South Carolina should have one of the nation’s best defensive lines despite losing Melvin Ingram to the NFL. Lattimore should hit 100 percent at some point during the season. Connor Shaw, the second highest-rated passer in the SEC last year, gives them both stability and a running threat.

Why We’re Concerned: South Carolina has some holes to fill on the offensive line, most notably replacing Rokevious Watkins. They will also feature a revamped and injury-burdened secondary, though being able to rush with four on the defensive line should alleviate pressure on them.

Circle This Game: South Carolina vs. Georgia (Oct. 6) The Gamecocks won a crazed 45-42 meeting last year. They will be looking for a firmer win this season, as they state their claim for the SEC East.

Best-Case Scenario: Spurrier trusts Connor Shaw. Lattimore stays healthy. The secondary is competent. South Carolina has one slip up, probably at LSU, but finished the season 11-1 and wins the SEC East.

Worst-Case Scenario: Spurrier gets trigger happy with Shaw. Lattimore is not 100 percent and the offense sputters. The secondary remains a liability. The Gamecocks struggle through a tough SEC schedule to finish a disappointing (and more traditional) 7-5.

Projected Bowl: Cotton

[Photo via Getty]

25. Kansas State 24. Virginia Tech 23. Clemson 22. Boise State 21. Stanford 20. Michigan State 19. Notre Dame 18. Nebraska 17. Oklahoma State 16. Wisconsin 15. TCU 14. Florida 13. West Virginia 12. Georgia 11. Texas 10. Arkansas 9. Michigan 8. Ohio State 7. Florida State

 

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