2012 Recap: South Carolina was a firm, just below Alabama-tier SEC team. 2012 came down to three games. The Gamecocks beat down Georgia, struggled offensively against LSU and had a rigged, throw your PS3 remote game against Florida. Substantial victories against Clemson and Michigan capped a second-straight 11-win season (just the third double-digit win year in school history). Marcus Lattimore blew out his knee. Jadeveon Clowney became a college football household name.
Offense: If Spurrier is patient, Connor Shaw will be the guy. He’s mobile. He’s tough. He wins. To get through this season unscathed, he’s going to need help. All of South Carolina’s returning guards and tackles have starting experience. Mike Davis should be a productive tailback. Nice tight ends. The key will be Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland or someone living up to their recruiting hype and offering a threat to replace Ace Sanders.
Defense: Clowney may be college football’s best player. That mitigates many concerns. He draws attention away from others. Teams must alter what they do to account for him. Beyond that, their first wave on the defensive line is very solid. They have depth in the secondary. The major concern is at linebacker. The Gamecocks lose five seniors from that position group. Their leading returning tackler had 4.5 tackles in 2012, for the season. They should be very strong against the pass. Replicating a Top 10 yards allowed per carry defense may be pushing it.
Schedule Gods Giveth: South Carolina plays Georgia’s defense early and after a test against Clemson, plays Florida at home late after a bye week and drew Mississippi State (home) and Arkansas (away) from the SEC West. Both Florida and Georgia must play LSU. They also get Vanderbilt and Clemson at home.
Ceiling: 12-0. Connor Shaw has a huge year. The young linebackers develop as the season progresses. Clowney racks up the sacks and makes a strong Heisman run.
Floor: 7-5. South Carolina does not develop a playmaker on offense. Shaw gets hurt. Injuries sap strength from the offensive and defensive lines and the secondary.
Prediction: 11-1. Clowney has a monster year. The Gamecocks roll through a soft schedule with one obligatory hiccup. They meet Alabama, with a chance to play Steve Spurrierback into the BCS title game.
25. USC Trojans 24. Miami Hurricanes 23. Northwestern Wildcats 22. Oregon State Beavers 21. Nebraska Cornhuskers 20. Texas Longhorns 19. Louisville Cardinals 18. Baylor Bears 17. Michigan Wolverines 16. TCU Horned Frogs 15. Oklahoma Sooners 14. Clemson Tigers 13. Florida State Seminoles 12. LSU Tigers 11. Boise State Broncos 10. Florida Gators 9. Oklahoma State Cowboys 8. Georgia Bulldogs