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South Carolina Football 2012: What Is the Gamecocks' Most Important Game of the Season?

Inspired by this post at Dawg Sports (see the poll results; they'll warm your heart), I pose the question: What's the biggest game we'll play next year?

Here are a few of my own thoughts about some of the key contests:

Vanderbilt. I'm def. not going to argue that this is the biggest game on the schedule, but I do think it's an important one. If it were being played mid-season, I would take us by 10+. But it's the opening game, and those tend to be unpredictable, particularly considering that Vandy should be halfway decent this year. Throw in the fact that this is a Thursday night game in Nashville (remember the last one?), and you have a good recipe for an upset. And considering the schedule that Georgia enjoys, we simply can't afford to lose a game like this if we're going to make it back to Atlanta.

Mizzou. Not a huge game, IMO, but should be an interesting one. As with Vandy, I feel that we should win this one. That said, Mizzou should be decent next year, and again, we can't afford to lose one like this if we're going to win the East. The game will also be a bit of a curiosity considering that it will be the first divisional matchup between the two teams, who, lest we forget, last met in the 2005 Independence Bowl.

Georgia. This one is bound to get a lot of votes. I think that UGA and USC are the SEC East's two best teams. After last year and considering that UGA has another easy schedule this year, winning this game won't be sufficient to get us back to Atlanta. But it will almost certainly be necessary.

LSU. This will probably be the toughest game of the season, and if we are undefeated at this point, it will very likely be a matchup between two top-five teams. That said, I don't see this one as being as important as UGA. If we lose to LSU while going undefeated otherwise, we'll get a rematch against the Tigers in the Georgia Dome, which will be friendlier than Tiger Stadium. If we lose to UGA, even a win against LSU likely won't get us back to Atlanta.

Florida. This one's hard to call right now. I think Florida is probably another year away from rejoining the elite--I'm expecting an eight-win season or so for the Gators this year. That said, there's talent in Gainesville, and it's not out of the question that they'll be back sooner rather than later. And don't forget that we've only won once in the Swamp. Ever.

Arkansas. I'm really looking forward to this one--perhaps our last chance for a while to get some revenge on Petrino and company. Moreover, as with last year, this is probably a key game for our SEC East chances. If we beat UGA, lose to LSU, and both UGA and USC go undefeated otherwise, this game will be the big test down the stretch.

Clemson. No conference implications obviously, but this is always the biggest game IMO. And Dabo certainly gave us something to think about with his little rant last year. You think Spurrier is itching to get a chance to embarrass Swinney after that? This should be a memorable chapter in the rivalry's history.