Record: 84-45 (10 Seasons)
Last Year's Record: (7-6, 3-5), defeated Miami in Duck Commander Bowl, 24-21
Review of 2014 Season-
You can expect there to be some drop-off when you lose a guy like Conner Shaw on offense and Jadeveon Clowney on defense along with each supporting cast. But I don't think Gamecocks fans were ready for the sorry excuse for a defense that took the field for much of the season last year. After three double-digit season win totals, South Carolina flirted with a losing season last year. All of the sudden, the Gamecocks looked more like the team we are all more accustomed to in 2014. I don't know, but maybe it was a bad omen to raise a over-sized banner of Steve Spurrier on the outside of the stadium before he has even brought the program its first SEC title. Just maybe. Other places hang banners for Championships. In Columbia, apparently a Capital One Bowl win and beating your rival five times in a row is just as worthy of a feat. To each his own.
Key Losses-QB Dylan Thompson, RB Mike Davis, WR Damiere Byrd, DL J.T. Surratt
Key Returners- RB Brandon Wilds, WR Pharoh Cooper, WR Shaq Roland, DT Gerald Dixon, Jr., LB Skai Moore
Returning Starters: Offense-7; Defense-8
September 3rd North Carolina (Bank of America Stadium-Charlotte, NC)
September 12th Kentucky
September 19th Georgia*
September 26th UCF
October 3rd Missouri
October 10th LSU*
October 17th Vanderbilt
October 31st Texas A&M
November 7th Tennessee*
November 14th Florida*
November 21st The Citadel
November 28th Clemson*
#- Home games in BOLD
*-denotes key game
Just like the Bulldogs, South Carolina's season will be made or broken by the month of October and the first week of November. They will be tested in the road trips to Missouri, Texas A&M and Tennessee. The East division of course continues to be inferior to the West....but that means it's up for grabs. The Gamecocks have to go back to Athens this year and bringing an inexperienced QB between the hedges with limited proven playmakers early in the season is a tall, tall task. Just ask Clemson about it last year. Not to mention UGA's defense which should be stout. Spurrier's group will have a three game home stand to close the season ending with a battle with their friends, eh...I mean "enemies" from the upstate. They'll be looking for revenge from last year's 35-17 loss to a one-legged Deshaun Watson and his supporting cast of Wayne Gallman and Artavis Scott and the nations best defense.
As expected, last season was somewhat of a rebuilding season with the departure of the best QB in school history, Conner Shaw. Thompson held his own as the Gamecock's new starter but a lack of reliable and proven help sometimes made things difficult. Tied with a just a flat out horrible defense and a handful of fourth quarter meltdowns and blowing leads against Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee, things got flat out ugly at times. But with Spurrier on the sidelines you can never really count out his team. Speaking of which will this be his last year? Or maybe he has another 10 years in the tank? Who knows. The HBC himself can't seem to make up his mind. His current contract runs through 2018, though for what its worth. Things should be better this fall but they have to find a new quarterback again. It looks like that will be Conner Mitch. Mitch threw a whopping 6 passes last season. I think I threw more than that in the parking lot of the fairgrounds last year before the game against UT. He will likely beat out junior walk-on Perry Orth and freshmen Michael Scarnecchia for the starting role.
The good news is that South Carolina's defense literally can't be much worse than it was last year and should be greatly improved this fall. The addition of Co-Defensive Coordinator Jon Hoke to assist Lorenzo Ward along with a handful of new defensive linemen in their most recent recruiting class should help. Of course, they will lack experience but definitely should be pointed in the right direction after finishing the 2014 season ranked 92th in total defense. It also has been reported that the Gamecocks will change to a 4-3 base system instead of the previous 3-4 and 4-2-5. My biggest question outside of the QB situation is who will step up and be that #2 and #3 guy on offense behind Cooper. Sure you can run wildcat and even some read-option with #11 to get him involved in various ways, but he can't do it all alone. Someone else will have to emerge as a reliable option. Cooper flew under the radar last year but opposing defenses will key in on him this year and in theory, things should be a little more difficult for him this time around. Regardless, he'll continue to make big plays but just how many? And will it be enough? Expect some more growing pains in the midlands this year.
Regular season Prediction: 7-5