SEC East battles against Georgia, Florida loom large
For the first time in a few seasons, the South Carolina Gamecocks have a favorable schedule, in-conference and out.
The Gamecocks open the college football season on Thursday night when the North Carolina Tar Heels come into Columbia for the battle of the Carolinas. North Carolina provides a bigger threat than most teams who have faced the Gamecocks week one in recent years. Senior quarterback Bryn Renner played well last season, throwing 28 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. Along with Renner, senior tailback A.J. Blue will look to be the go-to running back this coming season. Blue had nine touchdowns on 82 attempts last season. The Tar Heels defense moves quickly to the ball, but Connor Shaw should be able to distribute the ball around the field and open lanes up for his quick and talented wide-receivers. Gamecocks win on opening night at home.
Following UNC, the Gamecocks will travel down to Athens, Ga. to match up against their division rival. It is no secret Georgia is going to be a strong team in the SEC this season. Aaron Murray, entering his senior season, would love to get the Bulldogs to Atlanta again to put his team in a position to win the SEC. Georgia has talent on the offensive side of the ball, with many new faces on their defense. This game will be a tough one for the Gamecocks, and as hard as it may be to say, because the game is Athens, Georgia comes out up top.
After two tough games, the Gamecocks have a favorable stretch. In week three, the Gamecocks play Vanderbilt in Columbia. Week four sends South Carolina to the Sunshine State to play the University of Central Florida, and the Gamecocks play Kentucky in Columbia during week five. The next four weeks hold trips to Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Mississippi State. The Gamecocks will walk away from all of these games as winners. The presence of Jadeveon Clowney on the defensive side of the ball will be too much for any of these opposing offenses to be able to succeed. It is Clowney’s ability and Shaw’s game managing skills that will allow the Gamecocks to go 7-0 in this stretch.
On November 16, the Gamecocks play the Florida Gators in Columbia. This could be the season for the Gamecocks, depending how Georgia plays against LSU and Florida prior to this contest. If Gamecock fans can learn anything from the Bulldogs, it is the winner of the week two contest typically doesn’t determine the SEC East division winner. In this game, the Gamecocks will seize the moment and right the wrong they fumbled last season in the Swamp. The Gamecocks win and put themselves ahead of Georgia in the East.
On November 23, Coastal Carolina comes into town, and Gamecock fans shouldn’t expect much from the Chanticleers. No disrespect to the Chants, but the Gamecocks are the superior team with better talent in almost every position on the field.
Finally, the game all South Carolina college football fans love, the battle of the Palmetto State. The South Carolina-Clemson rivalry is one of the biggest in college football. Carolina has won the last four games played between the two. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd is a good quarterback; he can throw the ball around the field, create timing with his feet, and confuse a defense because of his athleticism. The problem is that the Gamecocks have seen him time and time again, and head football coach Steve Spurrier seems to have the upper hand in this matchup. Gamecocks make it five years in a row, and defeat Clemson handily.
The Gamecocks are well-positioned to go 11-1 for the third consecutive year and win the SEC East. They will travel to Atlanta to matchup against powerhouse Alabama. What happens there is anyone’s guess, but Carolina has the talent and skill level in each position to knock off the two-time reigning BCS National Champions.