If you've been reading my game previews, you know I think we're going to have a successful season. Let's conclude that preview series by putting it all out on the table: I'm predicting South Carolina to go 11-1 in the regular season. Here's how I see the season breaking down.
Wins: ECU, UAB, Kentucky, Wofford
Anything can happen, but I see little reason to believe that we're going to lose any of these games.
Should-Wins: Vandy, Mizzou, Tennessee, Clemson
We could lose any of these games if we don't show up. However, based on what we know now about each team, South Carolina should be a solid favorite in each game. That may change if, say, Mizzou's defense is better than expected, or if Clemson finds the right combination on the offensive line. Based on what we know now, though, I don't see either of those things happening, at least not to the degree that would be required to make me think that those teams would be better than USC.
Close Calls: Georgia, Florida, Arkansas
These will likely be the most exciting games of the year for Carolina. Georgia and Arkansas are, like Carolina, legitimate threats for finishes in the top 10, and while Florida has problems on offense, it should be a solid top-20-30 squad that will be a game opponent for us in the Swamp. However, the Gamecocks enjoy home-field advantage against Georgia and Arkansas, and they should still be solidly better than Florida. We should--emphasis on should--have the leg up in each of these games for these and other reasons.
Likely Loss: LSU
If this game were in Columbia, I might give us a good shot. In Death Valley, it's a likely loss, although I wouldn't completely rule out an upset here.
For all of this to come to pass, a few things have to happen: First of all, Carolina has to avoid injuries, particularly at positions of concern like CB. Second of all, Carolina can't drop a game that it shouldn't, which is what kept the past two years from being better than they were. Lastly, Carolina has to manage to go 3-0 against Georgia, Arkansas, and Florida. Needless to say, those three games comprise the key part of the season for the Gamecocks, with all three coming during a crowded October-November stretch when Carolina will have to stay on its A-game for several straight week. Part of me wants to say that we're going to drop one of those games. It's a tough road to hoe. However, we can and should be able to do it.