Published August 30, 2011 - 9:08am
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As fans and even media members, we all look down our favorite team’s schedule each season pinpointing the possible wins and potential hazards along the way. Season openers are about bragging rights, justification night on why your team is as good as advertised. By mid-October, the jawing stops in favor of division title pressure and postseason plans. Will the Gamecocks rewrite South Carolina football history this season?
Most college football analysts expect South Carolina to repeat as East champions in head coach Steve Spurrier’s seventh year in Columbia. The Gamecocks take the field with a senior quarterback who has started 28 consecutive games, two Heisman candidates headlining a talented offense and a defensive line, led by Devin Taylor, that is perhaps the strongest unit in the nation. In addition to weekly previews and analysis throughout the season, here’s an abbreviated glimpse on how the Gamecocks will finish:
11-3 overall, 6-2 SEC East Champions
East Carolina, W
at Georgia, W
at Miss. St., L
at Tennessee, W
at Arkansas, L
The Citadel, W
*SEC title game, in Atlanta vs. No. 1 ‘Bama
+Sugar Bowl, SEC at-large berth
Offensive MVP: RB Marcus Lattimore … Those expecting a sophomore slump from South Carolina’s best player can forget about it. Lattimore will be the main ingredient in the Gamecocks’ second straight trip to the SEC Title Game and third straight victory over in-state rival Clemson in November. Barring injury, Lattimore will finish second in the conference in rushing (Trent Richardson) and match his touchdown total from last season (17). Barring injury, he’ll be in the Heisman race from start to finish.
Defensive MVP: CB Stephon Gilmore … The junior cornerback will shake off his dreadful performance in the SEC Championship Game early and often for the Gamecocks in 2011. A lockdown corner on some occasions, Gilmore will step up and be the premier coverage man in the SEC the coaching staff has expected the last two years in Columbia. Focused and itching to redeem himself in the Georgia Dome, there won’t be too many players in the secondary better than Gilmore this season.
Breakout player: WR Ace Sanders … Not many athletes at 5-foot-7, 166 pounds pack the punch Ace Sanders will bring to Steve Spurrier’s offense this season. An impressive campaign from Sanders in the slot will take catches – and touchdowns – away from Alshon Jeffery, but neither player will mind since it’ll make the Gamecocks a better team. Unlike last season, Sanders should be a factor at his position in each game this fall and nearly double his receptions total (25) as a sophomore.
Stay tuned for the Week 1 preview of South Carolina’s battle with East Carolina featuring grades and a position-by-position breakdown…