It’s not yet Valentine’s Day, so this is subject to change, but the leader in the clubhouse for post that has peeved the most folks in 2010 is the one where I dared to suggest South Carolina might be poised for a better football season than the Georgia-based SEC representative.
I got the usual dismissive response — “Bradley, you’re just trolling for a reaction” — but I really wasn’t. I actually believe South Carolina is poised for a better season. And now, from Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com’s Insiders, comes something in the way of corroborating testimony. Feldman lists South Carolina as the No. 1 team being overlooked for 2010. (Link requires registration.) His rationale:
“If the Gamecocks don’t come up with that clunker in the bowl game, I suspect they’re preseason top 20, but let’s not overreact too much to that game. QB Stephen Garcia did make some nice strides in 2009, and Carolina does return 19 of 22 starters. Better still, it just landed a potential impact freshman in RB Marcus Lattimore, who could — and should — do wonders for the SEC’s worst rushing game. Those reasons have me thinking this should be Steve Spurrier’s best Carolina team yet, although that’s probably not saying all that much. New O-line coach Shawn Elliott needs to bolster the group up front (they did surrender 36 sacks last season). The schedule also breaks fairly well with Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas all having to visit Columbia this year. The two toughest SEC road games: at Florida and at Auburn.”
Understand: I’m a Gamecock skeptic of long standing. I got much grief from the Palmetto State when, back in 2007, I agreed with Lee Corso that Spurrier would never win the SEC while working in Columbia. (And then, as is invariably the case with me, Spurrier and Carolina beat Georgia in Athens.) But I do think there’s a stability with the other USC that isn’t present anywhere else in the SEC East save Vanderbilt. And I think that stability will count for something this fall.
Would I pick Carolina to win the East? Nope. Even with the players and coaches Florida has lost, I’d take the Gators. And I think Georgia could have a nice rebound year and maybe even go 9-3. But I think the Gamecocks could likewise go 9-3 and beat the Bulldogs at Williams-Brice on Sept. 11. (That will be the first road start for whoever is Georgia’s quarterback.)
I know, I know. South Carolina always promises much and delivers much less. I’m fully aware of the Chicken Curse. But this one time, I could see the Gamecocks finishing (slightly) ahead of Georgia. This one time.
Then again, I liked the Colts over the Saints. And Texas over Alabama. And Tech over Georgia in basketball. And Tech over Georgia in football. And …