Previewing The 2011 South Carolina Gamecocks
After last years SEC East title, head coach Steve Spurrier has the South Carolina Gamecocks in line for a potentially magical season, that with a little luck could end in a BCS Championship game appearance. Spurrier has all of the tools in place on both sides of the ball and the proper schedule to make this fall one that Gamecock fans will never forget.
South Carolina defense is going to be nasty and will be improved from giving up 23 points per contest last year. Many starters are returning and the defensive line could end up as the SEC’s top pass rush. Freshman Jadeveon Clowney, the nations #1 high school recruit, will have an instant impact on this team and coach Spurrier has already announced he will play in the Gamecocks opening game against East Carolina. Along with guys like Stephon Gilmore and Devin Taylor, the biggest worry the Ol’ Ball Coach might have will be his offense getting tired from being on the field after so many opponents three and outs.
The offense scored almost 31 points per game last year and will be even more explosive this season giving the Gamecock faithful a lot to cheer about. Boasting last years SEC Freshman of the Year, Marcus Lattimore, and possibly the best wide receiver in the nation, Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina will be putting up a lot of points. Marcus Lattimore has been discussed as an early Heisman Trophy candidate and would be the second winner in Gamecocks history (the other being George Rogers in 1980). One of the potential players that the star running back may have to take votes from is teammate Jeffery, who was the runner up to the Biletnikoff Award last season. Both players will make things easier for starting quarterback Stephen Garcia, who has had plenty of off the field problems getting suspended from the team five times in the last four years. And while the media is quick to point out those issues, Garcia looks focused and poised to lead the Gamecocks to its first SEC Championship victory.
The 2011 schedule for South Carolina is relatively easy. Here is a closer look:
9/3 vs. East Carolina – The season opener will be played at Bank of America stadium in Charlotte, NC. The Pirates are horrible on defense giving the Gamecocks an opportunity to start on a good foot, potentially hanging 40+ points. Even though ECU boasts a strong quarterback, they won’t be able to keep up with South Carolinas stingy defense. Final: USC 45-17 (1-0, 0-0)
9/10 at #19 Georgia – Always a hard fought early season battle between SEC East and border rivals. The Bulldogs have a good quarterback but no receivers. The Gamecocks will make a strong statement in Athens and solidify their potential late top 10 ranking. Final: USC 28-10 (2-0, 1-0)
9/17 vs. Navy – The first of four straight home games should not be a tough one for the Garnet and Black. Navy utilizes the option just as good as anyone in the country but South Carolinas front four should have no problems stopping it. Garcia will take charge early and the Gamecocks will run away from the Midshipmen. Final: USC 49-21 (3-0, 1-0)
9/24 vs. Vanderbilt – Face it, the Commodores are not very good and South Carolina will easily go up 2-0 in SEC play with a rousing victory. Final: USC 35-7 (4-0, 2-0)
10/1 vs. #23 Auburn – The defending national champions may not be ranking by the time they get to Columbia and they still won’t be when the polls come out the following Sunday night and Monday morning. The Gamecocks have been looking forward to this one after losing a heartbreaker late in the game during the regular season and then getting crushed in the 2010 SEC Championship game. South Carolina gets its revenge. Final: USC 28-14 (5-0, 3-0)
10/8 vs. Kentucky – The Wildcats are another team that South Carolina wants to beat about losing a humiliating game to them last year. Usually in this series the game is decided by less than a touchdown, not this year. The Gamecocks will sneak into 5th place in the national rankings and get one step closer to repeating as SEC East champs. Final: USC 30-13 (6-0, 4-0)
10/15 at #20 Mississippi State – In the Gamecocks first road game in over a month they will meet a Bulldog team that may have already slipped out of the polls. This one might be a tighter contest than fans think but it will show the world that South Carolina is serious as they win a nail-bitter. USC 21-20 (7-0, 5-0)
10/29 at Tennessee – After an off week, the team will travel to Knoxville, (and as much as my blogging partner Chris Johnson hates it) potentially lock up the SEC East after beating the Volunteers in an ugly game. Final: USC 17-0 (8-0, 6-0)
11/5 at #15 Arkansas – This is the game that critics are saying should be South Carolinas toughest challenge and it will be. However the Razorbacks lost their star running back for the season and will have to rely on their passing game. The Gamecocks again show they belong in the conversation for the BCS Title Game. Final: USC 31-21 (9-0, 7-0)
11/12 vs. #22 Florida – South Carolina will beat the Gators in back to back seasons, continuing to establish their dominance over the SEC East. It will be another feather in the cap of former Florida coach, Steve Spurrier, as the Gamecocks wrap up conference play undefeated. Final: USC 38-24 (10-0, 8-0)
11/19 vs. Citadel – This will be a cakewalk game. Look for Marcus Lattimore and company to pad their stats in the first half before resting in the second half of the game, in what will be an utter mismatch. If the Gamecocks are as good as I think they are, this one will be a laugher. We may even get to see Connor Shaw play the entire 2nd half. On a historical note, this will be the first time in school history South Carolina reaches 11 wins. Final: USC 63-17 (11-0, 8-0)
11/26 vs. Clemson – Stephen Garcia will play in his final home game of his collegiate career and cap it off by finishing the Gamecocks first undefeated regular season. Although the Tigers are a bitter rival, South Carolina will be looking to strengthen its resume in order to get more first place votes. Final: USC 42-23 (12-0, 8-0)
12/3 at SEC Championship Game – Assuming I am right, and the Gamecocks play perfect ball all season long, this is the game that various members of the media are talking about as the potential roadblock for South Carolina. With LSU losing its star quarterback, there will be no one in the SEC West to stop Alabama from making it to Atlanta. The Crimson Tide are going to be looking to extract their own measure of revenge from last year when the Gamecocks beat them as the #1 ranked team in the nation. However, this is a new era and a much-improved South Carolina team. The Gamecocks will finally win “the big one” and not let fans down with another late season slide, cementing their spot in the BCS Championship game. Final: USC 27-21 (13-0, 8-0)
1/9/12 at BCS Championship Game – I’d love to tell you that the 2011 South Carolina Gamecocks are going to complete an unbelievable season with a victory in the Super Dome, but the truth is I have no idea who they will be facing. If the voters right now have any say in it, their opponent will be the Oklahoma Sooners and will be if they can make it through Big-12 play unscathed. If this is the case the game will be one for the ages. I have a sneaky feeling the rooster will be crowing at Williams-Brice stadium as the biggest party to ever hit Columbia erupts with a welcome home celebration. Final: USC 27-24 (14-0, 8-0)
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