2011 Record: 11-2 (6-2 in SEC)
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (55-35 at South Carolina; 197-75-2 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Capital One Bowl: beat Nebraska 30-13
Four Year Trend: 8.5 wins and 4.75 losses overall; 4.5 wins and 3.5 losses in SEC
Revenge: 11/10 vs Arkansas
Stats to Cheer: allowed opponents to score TDs on just 47.62% of red zone trips (4th in SEC)
Stat to Fear: converted on 80.95% of trips to red zone (9th in SEC)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 6; Defense: 5; Specialists: 1)
Key Defensive Returnees: DE Jadeveon Clowney (36 tackles, 8 sacks), DE Devin Taylor (42 tackles, 6 sacks), LB DeVonte Holloman (51 tackles), S DJ Swearinger (80 tackles, 3 INT)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Connor Shaw (14 TD, 6 INT), RB Marcus Lattimore (818 yds, 10 TD in 7 games), WR Ace Sanders (29 rec)
After toiling in mediocrity in his first five seasons at South Carolina, it's seems like Steve Spurrier has finally broken through. In 2010, the Gamecocks finally made it to an SEC Championship Game and then last year they finished 11-2 and in the top ten. Can the Gamecocks maintain this level of success?
On offense, the Gamecocks will be glad to get workhorse RB Marcus Lattimore back. Connor Shaw took over at QB last year and mixed success but seemed to grow as the season went on. He struggled against the likes of Arkansas and Florida but finished the season with two good games against Clemson and Nebraska. Shaw is a danger with his feet but needs to improve his downfield passing. The receiving corps must replace Alshon Jeffrey (49 rec, 8 TD). The Gamecocks have some talent on offense but their ultimate success will boil down to how well Lattimore comes back from his injury.
South Carolina had an extremely talented defense last year but must replace a lot of key parts including their defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, who took the head coaching job at Southern Miss. The Gamecocks must replace Antonio Allen (2 TDs, 4 forced fumbles, 3 INT, 88 tackles), Stephon Gilmore (1 TD, 4 INT, 46 tackles), Melvin Ingram (2 TDs, 10 sacks, 48 tackles) and Travian Robertson (8 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 49 tackles). In addition to Gilmore they also lose CC Whitlock (3 INT) and Marty Markett. That is a lot of talent to lose on one side of the football. Coming back they do have one of the best DE combos in the Nation in Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. The key to the defense might be DeVonte Holloman and how he fills for Antonio Allen at the Spur position. The other key is the secondary. There is no doubt that Taylor and Clowney will get pressure on the QB but will it be enough to help out a young secondary.
This off-season, Steve Spurrier has often seemed like he's more worried about Georgia's schedule than his own. It's been four years since Spurrier has beaten this cross-division "rival" Arkansas, so he might want to spend more time worrying about them. This season will come down to the Arkansas and Georgia game as long as the Gamecocks take care of business and win the rest of the games "they are supposed to win". Last year they lost to a mediocre Auburn team and that cost them. They can't afford a slip up this season.
2012 Prediction: 10-2
Top 25 Countdown
#8 South Carolina
#12 Michigan State
#14 Kansas State
#16 Virginia Tech
#17 Boise State
#19 Ohio State
#23 Oklahoma State
Previous 2012 Previews: