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gamecocks 2008: The Season Ahead

A brief romp through the 2008 schedule for the Gamecocks, with more complete previews, of course, coming as the season gets closer.

Game 1: vs. N.C. State (Thursday)
C&F is beginning to doubt more and more his wisdom in thinking that the Wolfpack might be a surprise team. N.C. State returns 10 starters to a team that finished 5-7 in 2007. They keep most of their running attack and quarterback, but lose a good chunk of the WR corps. The defense was hit hard by the end of last season; only four starters return. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 2: at Vanderbilt (Thursday)
This could be a long year for Bobby Johnson. Again. QBs Mackenzi Adams and Chris Nickson returns, but RB Cassen Jackson-Garrison and WR Earl Bennett are gone. The Dores needed the upset in Columbia to fall one game short of a bowl (again) in 2007. South Carolina will be looking for revenge, though this is easily a trap game. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 3: vs. Georgia
A team that went 11-2 last year returns 17 starters, among them a talented QB (Matthew Stafford), a Heisman-hyped RB (Knowshon Moreno) and the makings of a tough defense. The spelling-challenged Dawgs are legitimate national title contenders. ADVANTAGE: SPELLING-CHALLENGED DAWGS

Game 4: vs. Wofford
The Terriers scared the Gamecocks in 2006, and South Carolina has a habit of performing in underwhelming fashion against DIAAFCSETC teams. The hope, of course, is that Ellis Johnson can put a stop to that (or at least the defensive side). A scary game. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 5: vs. UAB
Returning 16 starters is usually a good thing. But that can be an open quesiton when those starters were partially responsible for a 2-10 debacle. According to Phil Steele, the Blazers are 8-38 against BCS squads and are on a seven-game losing streak. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 6: at Mississippi
Houston Nutt and Ole Miss have both been problems for South Carolina, even when they shouldn't be -- and they shouldn't be. But Ole Miss is struggling to overcome an abysmal period under the Orgeron. Nutt will start to turn the team around by the end of 2008, but largely with moral victories. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 7: at Kentucky
The Wildcats lose QB Andre Woodson, RB Rafael Little, WR Steve Johnson and WR Keenan Burton. The bottom will probably not fall out this year, and a bowl game isn't out of the question by any means. But South Carolina has an eight-game winning streak against Kentucky, and there's little reason to think that the Cats depleted offense can snap the streak this year. ADVANTAGE: SOUTH CAROLINA

Game 8: vs. LSU
The season begins to turn. The Bayou Bengals do lose QB Matt Flynn -- and, it turns out, QB Ryan Perrilloux -- RB Jacob Hester and WR Early Doucet. But this is LSU. Losing more than four games would be stunning, and it's incredibly unlikely that one of those defeats will come in Columbia. ADVANTAGE: TIGERS

Game 9: vs. Tennessee
The near-consensus for placing the Vols among the top 3 in the SEC East confuses C&F. This team showed weaknesses last year and stumbled to a division championship that should also be credited to timely losses by Georgia and Florida. With the loss of QB Erik Ainge and OC David Cutcliffe, it could be tough for Tennessee to stave off South Carolina again, especially with the game in Columbia. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Game 10: vs. Arkansas
The Gypsy Coach of the South brings his team to the WB -- assuming, of course, that he's still with the Hogs this laste in the season. GCOTS will likely have trouble successfully installing his offense with Houston Nutt's recruits, and a bowl game would be an incredibly good job for this team. Oh, yeah, and they lost some players named McFadden and Jones. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS

Game 11: at Florida
Steve Spurrier returns once again to the Swamp were he juuuuuuuust barley missed beating the Gators the last time. The Gators are stacked, though; QB Tim Tebow and utility player Percy Harvin are among 16 returning starters and the defense should improve with age. This could be Urban Meyer's best team so far. Only a loss to the spelling-challenged Dawgs will keep them out of Atlanta and Miami after the regular season. ADVANTAGE: GATORS

Game 12: at the Team from the Upstate
Yeah, the Tiggers should be good this year. Good offense, quality defense, etc. Yeah, you know how C&F is going to lean on this one. ADVANTAGE: GAMECOCKS.