Published August 17, 2011 - 7:25am
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Call the bookie and place those bets. Or just brag to your SEC football-watching brethren that you know more than them. Here are eight games that South Carolina will not lose in 2011 …
Sept. 3, vs. East Carolina (in Charlotte)
South Carolina has won all six season openers since Steve Spurrier’s arrival in Garnet and Black in 2005. ECU’s defense was awful in 2010, giving up a horrendous 44 points per game. The secondary was bad and the defensive line couldn’t muster enough pressure on the quarterback. Mark it down. The Gamecocks will take this one by at least three touchdowns.
Sept. 17, vs. Navy
Navy lost its only offensive weapon from last season in senior quarterback Ricky Dobbs. The Midshipmen won nine games but lost their bowl games by 21 points to San Diego State. South Carolina’s speed on defense, especially up front, should suffocate Navy’s triple option set. This one’s a laugher just from the talent discrepancy alone on both sides of the football.
Sept. 24, vs. Vanderbilt
After a tough, come-from-behind win at Georgia in the Week 2, South Carolina’s home SEC opener should be a breeze in Columbia. A repeat of what happened in 2007, a disheartening setback when the Gamecocks were ranked No. 6, is impossible. The Commodores won two games last season and will barely eclipse that win total, if they’re lucky, in 2011.
Oct. 1, vs. Auburn
Ah, the first “if” home game for South Carolina fans. If Auburn still had quarterback Cam Newton running the offense, I’d give this one a push. But with the Gamecocks itching to take out the Tigers for the first time since 1933, Auburn will lose its third game of the season in game No. 5. All the sudden the phrase “bowl eligible” makes the War Eagles sweat down south.
Oct. 8, vs. Kentucky
Joker Phillips. Danny Trevathan. A perennial bottom-dweller hungry for another win over the Gamecocks. This one has all the trimmings of an upset right? Wrong. Marcus Lattimore will gash the Wildcats for triple digits on the ground, like he did in Lexington, and send Kentucky back to the Bluegrass State with a bruised ego. A loss at South Carolina would mean the Wildcats are 0-3 in SEC play at the season’s halfway point. Not good.
Nov. 12, vs. Florida
My how far the Gamecocks have come. No longer is the “Florida Game” a scheduled loss but rather a favorable match-up. South Carolina returns home from a treacherous three-game road trip to clinch the East and a second berth in Atlanta. The silver lining for the Gators could be the play of its new quarterback. Incumbent starter John Brantley will be riding the bench at this point.
Nov. 19, vs. The Citadel
See last year’s 69-24 win over Troy on the same weekend.
Nov. 26, vs. Clemson
South Carolina fans won’t mind dropping a few bills outside Williams-Brice Stadium for a ticket to this year’s installment of the Palmetto State Rivalry. The Gamecocks are better at almost every position, especially the one that matters in most Clemson-Carolina games – quarterback. Stephen Garcia goes out with a bang in his final home game as a Gamecock and South Carolina wins its third straight over Dabo Swinney’s Tigers.
The What If’s
Sept. 10, at Georgia
We’ll see just how far South Carolina’s high-powered offense has come early in the season, perhaps the East’s most pivotal game in 2011. The winner of this one likely represents this side of the SEC in the Georgia Dome against Alabama. All Gamecock followers know, for this season to be the best in school history, Spurrier has to beat the Bulldogs between the hedges. He’ll get it done, but it won’t be easy.
Oct. 29, at Tennessee
For whatever reason, the Gamecocks struggle at Neyland Stadium. From fumbles to interceptions to missed field goals, wins are hard to come by in Knoxville even if the Volunteers aren’t as talented as they used to be. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley will certainly have his team fired up for this one, but too much will be riding on South Carolina’s sixth conference game for the Gamecocks to be shamed away from home. And please Tennessee, leave the black alternates in the locker room. Those things are hideous.
Nov. 5, at Arkansas
The loss of Arkansas running back Knile Davis for the season – as bad as it comes across – actually helps South Carolina’s chances in this tough road game. The Razorbacks’ den has been a house of horrors for the Gamecocks in recent years and no one will forget Darren McFadden running hog wild on the defense in 2007. No Ryan Mallett and more focused Gamecocks this time around should be the difference.
The Bad Feeling
Oct. 15, at Mississippi State
Before each season when I’m projecting my bowl itinerary for the holidays, there’s always a game that gets crossed out with a loss in my notebook. You know the game, usually a long road trip where fans think, “Man, that’s going to be difficult no matter where we’re ranked. I’m not driving that far for that.” This one’s it. A match-up of two ranked teams in Starkville, presumably under the lights on ESPN, has “’Dogs rattle Garcia” written all over it. South Carolina’s first loss of 2011, maybe its only regular season defeat, comes at the hands of Dan Mullen’s gang.
The Bottom Line
The Gamecocks are going 8-0 at home this season, all guaranteed wins. Don’t give those seats up yet ticket holders, with a few road wins, South Carolina could be staring at a BCS at-large bid. An injury to Lattimore, Alshon Jeffery and/or Garcia means mediocrity most likely prevails.