What a great year to be a Gamecock! With that said, I shall give my thoughts on next season and what it means for the program.
Let's begin with the schedule. We all have griped about it in comparison to our rival Georgia's draw, but let's look at it with some perspective. The big problem is how Georgia avoided the three best teams from the west again, which is odd to say the least, but to be honest, we can't predict how good each team will be from year to year. It's possible that Ole Miss, Miss St., and Auburn are very good next year and LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas take a dip. It's somewhat unlikely, but not out of the question. The bottom line is that we can't fault a team for it's in conference schedule so let's get over it (although the fact that UGA got to drop Bama while we picked up LSU is a perfectly valid talking point).
The great part about our schedule is that while difficult, it also comes at a great juncture in the progression of our program. Many have said that the the success of the team has come because the traditional powerhouses of the east have been down and a somewhat favorable schedule. That's not entirely false. We have had some scheduling luck. But more importantly, he have seen a great difference in the attitude and talent level of our team. With our challenging schedule, we now have a chance to prove all the haters wrong.
The most intriguing part of our team to consider going into next year is the offense and how Spurrier uses his players. He has been reluctant during the season to fully commit to a spread style offense, but as much as the loss of Alshon hurts, it is also a blessing in disguise. This will be the first season the HBC has without a big, physical go-to receiver (Rice, Cook, Jeffery). This means he'll be forced to use his smaller, faster, experienced receivers like Sanders and Byrd in the passing game, and getting them in space. Injuries this year also forced us to get younger guys involved and will improve our depth. Wilds and a healthy Lattimore will provide a dangerous rushing attack in addition to an improved Shaw (as talented as Garcia was, I'd take Shaw's consistency and decision making over Garcia's huge peaks and valleys any day).
The defense loses some big names, but should be able to fill the holes well. Quarles and Hampton played very well most of the year and should fill in for Ingram and Gilmore seamlessly. In addition, I expect the experienced Holloman to vacate Allen's spot and up and coming Brison Williams to replace Holloman. We get Akeem Auguste back as well at the other corner spot.
All in all, we have an offense that could be great if coached properly, and a defense that shouldn't fall off very far. Couple that with some improved special teams play and we can be very good again. The point is that we should not worry about our rivals. Take care of a difficult schedule, win 2 of our 3 toughest games, and prove to everyone else that our success isn't a product of everybody else's failures. The future is very bright here and going 10-2 again shouldn't be a disappointment, but a confirmation that our Gamecock football team has finally arrived as a consistent contender in the conference race. All the rest is gravy.