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Six Games I Really Want to See the Gamecocks Win in 2009

OK, so of course I'd like to see us win every game this year. And of course just because I say I'd love to see us beat Georgia doesn't mean that I'll be cool with us losing to Kentucky or any other beatable (i. e., not Florida) team on our schedule if we actually do beat Georgia. However, I think we can all agree that some games carry more emotional weight than others. These six carry that for me.

6. Arkansas

Although it's completely inorganic, this has become a competitive rivalry over the past few years. It's also become a pretty significant one, with both teams oftentimes jockeying for bowl positioning. This year, the game should return to its competitive mean after relatively easy victories by the homes teams over the past two years. While the defense will probably still be a bit shaky, the Hogs' offense projects to show marked improvement this year with Ryan Mallett under center and Michael Smith returning at tailback. This could be one of the highest scoring games we play all season.

5. NC State

I was unsure whether to go with Arkansas or NC State for this spot. This (see comments section) tipped the balance in NC State's favor. I probably shouldn't judge based on what a few malcontents are saying behind a keyboard, as none of the NC State fans I've met in real life have been anything but nice. However, right now the thought of the Wolfpack is leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I think it's the taste of "completely unfounded confidence and trash talking." It's also never good to lose the first game of the year, especially to an OOC foe from the ACC. The conference is counting on us.

4. Alabama

OK, so in a perfect world, if I could have any upset this season, it would be Florida. However, this isn't a perfect world, we're not a perfect team, and Florida and Tim Tebow are perfect, so I'm not going to waste time drooling over a potential win over the Gators that has only the slimmest chance of happening. I do think, however, that we have an outside shot at beating 'Bama, likely the second most difficult opponent on the schedule. Not a good chance, mind you, but a chance nonetheless. The Tide figure to have another great Saban defense but should drop off somewhat on offense after losing a number of important players. If we end up having a team that's better than advertised, this could be our chance to pick up a season-defining win.

3. Vanderbilt

As I've said before, I don't bear Vandy any ill will. In fact, I usually root for them when they're not playing us. However, we now have a two-game losing streak against a team we previously hadn't lost to since 1999 and which before the first loss had never beaten our coach in over a dozen tries. That's not something that sits well with me. And both losses really hurt us--the 2007 game started the infamous skid, and a win last year would have given us eight wins and what I would have called a successful season. Simply put, to get over the hump this year, we have to beat these guys. Among other things, that's going to mean cutting down on the red-zone turnovers and special teams gaffes that have killed us during the two losses.

2. Georgia

Most South Carolina fans consider this game to be the second biggest on the schedule each year, and I'm no different. A win in this one will make me very happy, and it will probably portend a successful season.

Also, although 'Dawgs fans won't admit it, this game has emotional value for them as well. While we're not up there with Auburn, GA Tech, and Florida for them (understandably so, considering history the history they have with those schools), any amount of scouring the 'Dawg blog-o-sphere will reveal a pretty good bit of South Carolina-directed vitriol from the UGA faithful. That says a lot more than their consistent statements that we're just another game to them. Actually, the obsessiveness with which they say that also says a lot.

1. Clemson

I could go on and on about how there are serious tactical reasons that we need to beat these guys even though they're not in the SEC--not least of which is the importance of locking down the state of South Carolina in recruiting--but I really just don't like their silly purple uniforms, their rock, and most of all their annoying fans. 'Nuff said. Spurrier, I hope you're taking notes. You need to take over this series.