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Mid-season report: Can we finish the job this time?

Yes, I am aware that, techinically, last week marked mid-season. We now sit at at 5-2 with five games left to play. However, I believe that this week is our true mid-season. With no disrespect to the Kentucky Wildcats, who look to have a decent team this year, at the beginning of the season I saw this week's game with LSU as the beginning of the difficult second half of our schedule. While Ole Miss and Kentucky look better than advertised so far, I still stand by my preseason division of the schedule. That means that the day before yesterday was the first day of the rest of the 2008 Gamecocks' lives.

How will the Gamecocks do the rest of the year? I think we're positioned to do very well in terms of preseason expectations. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that we would be 5-2 at this point, I would have said that we would have trouble achieving the goal of eight regular season wins and a berth in a bowl not located in Shreveport, Birmingham, Nashville, or Memphis.

However, we now know a few things that have caused me to change my mind. First of all, Vandy is better than they were expected to be, so that loss shouldn't sting as much. Second of all, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Clemson all look much more winnable now than they did in August. Heck, even LSU and Florida have shown chinks in their armor, although Florida does look pretty daunting.

We should be favored against the Vols, Hogs, and Clemson Tigers, we have a legitimate shot at an upset against the LSU Tigers, and if things come together for our offense down the stretch, beating Florida isn't out of the question. Our defense is good enough to keep us in any game, even against the Gators. Our offense has struggled, but if Stephen Garcia lives up to the now thunderous hype, I believe we can score very effectively against all teams we play other than Tennessee and Florida, and Tennessee shouldn't matter because the Vols won't score squat on us.

Perhaps most importantly, unlike last year at this time, we're very healthy. Spurrier has made repeated mention of this fact, and for good reason: unlike last year, it's very likely that we'll see improved play down the stretch, not worse play. The thought that our offense will likely come together at some point and that our defense might get even better means that we could have a scary team by year's end.

To sum up: I think we should expect nothing less than eight wins out of South Carolina this year, and nine isn't out of the realm of possibilities.