With spring practice well underway, this is a good time for our first football question in a while. What is your all-time favorite season of Carolina football? Why?
For me, 2012 was the apex of our recent (and, hopefully, temporarily on-hold) Golden Age. We started 6-0, including five routs, the last of which was the Jim Ross narration-worthy destruction of UGA. Things took a turn for the dire after a pair of losses (to pretty good teams) followed Marcus' career-ending injury. But the season upswung with a rout of Arkansas, a 4th consecutive rivalry win, and the unforgettable Outback Bowl win. I haven't even mentioned Jadeveon Clowney yet, who became one of the most feared commodities in recent college football history. The Hit, the Dismantling of Tajh Boyd, the gamesaving strip-sack vs. Tennessee. God, how was that all packed into one season?
I tried to come up with something different, but it has to be 2012. Sure it stunk to lose on the road to LSU and Florida, but those were top-10 teams that we played on the road, and there's not much you can do about that. But otherwise, we beat up on Georgia, Tennessee, and Clemson. We had the hit and Clowney.
It was just fun as all hell, and despite not winning the East, there was nothing to look back on that you truly regretted as a missed opportunity. As great as the 2011 and 2013 seasons were, as well as 2010 and 2000 and 2001, there were chances missed there where you look back and think about how much better the season could have been. There's really not much more you could've asked from the 2012 team.
Let me start with this. Van Halen. 1984. Their last album with David Lee Roth. I saw them in concert and it was totally 80's awesome, but so were the Gamecocks that year. It was like the city was asleep for years and then Joe Morrison rode into Columbia. He brought some swagger and he created some great traditions. For one, the 2001 Space Odyssey and all black uniforms. That was the "Black Magic" year because of Coach Morrison. And I think that was the same year we had the "Fire Ant" defense too.
Jordans were affordable. Vans were worn by skaters, guys had the Miami Vice look and ladies were jumping around in Jelly shoes at William Brice back in 1984. And the Gamecocks, well, they were undefeated until.... they lost to Navy! I cried after that game. It was an electric year for the football program. I was just another Bored Suburban Youth before 84'. I'm sure there has to be some readers that remember the Carolina v FSU game that year!
Since Jorge and Hoops have already covered 2012, I'll go with 2013. I think the game that sticks out most - for obvious reasons - is the Missouri game. Even now, I kind of still can't believe it happened the way it did. Plus the seniors/juniors going to the draft beat That Team From The Upstate to lock up five straight victories over the Tigers on Senior Night to close out the season at home and it was fantastic. And then there was the bowl game, which was particularly memorable for me because I got to see it in person. Even though it was another season that ended without an SEC East title, it was full of so many other great things that I wasn't even that bummed about Missouri being the division champs. Okay - that's a lie. I was pretty bummed. But it didn't take away from the fact that 2013 was still a great, fun season.
My favorite season is also 2013 for many of the same reasons that Katie listed. That game against Missouri still amazes me and it's one of my all-time favorites. The bowl game was great and it was a fun finale for some of the best players we've had at Carolina.
But I also have a more personal reason for picking 2013 as my favorite. I graduated from USC in May of 2013 and it took me a while to find a job after that. Those months after graduation were pretty rough and Gamecock football was a welcome distraction from the stress. So I remember the 2013 season very fondly as one of the things that was fun in an otherwise difficult time for me.