Published July 19, 2011 - 9:37am
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Saturday Down South will be looking at the SEC title chances for every team in the conference and giving three reasons for and three reasons against every team winning the SEC Championship come December…in alphabetical order of course.
South Carolina Gamecocks
Three Reasons Why
1. Marcus Lattimore – Marcus Lattimore broke onto the scene last year as a stud freshman running back, and he was arguably the best running back in the conference. He has the perfect combination of size, speed and vision when he gets the football in the backfield. Lattimore brings more than just a running back to this line up – he brings a legitimate threat at catching the football out of the backfield. His receiving game is vastly underrated. I think Lattimore is the best running back in the SEC, a conference that is just loaded with running back talent. If the Gamecocks are going to win the SEC, Lattimore will have to lead this team on offense.
2. Alshon Jeffery – While Lattimore is arguably the best at his position, Jeffery is no doubt the best wide receiver in the SEC, and maybe the rest of the country. At 6-4, 223 lbs Jeffery can literally do it all. The once-deemed “Gas Pumper” by Lane Kiffin has turned into the best wide receiver in the country in two years. He will likely win the Biletnikoff Award for the best receiver and take his talents to the league next year. But for now, Jeffery will try to get his football team back to Atlanta.
3. Devin Taylor – Devin Taylor exploded onto the scene last year as a sophomore. At 6-7, 255 lbs, Taylor manhandled offensive tackles and really made a great impact in the defensive backfield. He led the defensive linemen in tackles and was second in sacks. Teams will now have to double-team Taylor, and it will free up freshman phenom Jadeveon Clowney. Yes, Clowney will be grateful for the garnered attention to Taylor because I have a feeling this team will benefit from it.
Three Reasons Why Not
1. Stephen Garcia – Stephen Garcia has been troubled throughout his career as a Gamecock. What makes you think he will change now? If Garcia remains a cancer to this team and program, it suppresses this offense tremendously. Garcia has always put up decent numbers on the field, but he will have to clean up his act and clean up his interceptions. Unproven backup Connor Shaw could be adequate enough to run Steve Spurrier’s offense, but Garcia is the guy for one more year. However, Garcia is a question mark entering the season.
2. Defensive Secondary – The Gamecock secondary was just abused last year, and there is no denying that. That weakness was exposed mightily by Auburn in Atlanta. Now, they will have to clean up their act to get back to Atlanta. Stephon Gilmore is the leader in this secondary at corner. He has all the athleticism to be the best defensive back in the conference. Victor Hampton, CC Whitlock and Akeem Auguste will fight for the other corner. Safties Devonte Holloman and DJ Swearinger will have to step up their game as well. This defense was 10th overall in the SEC in pass defense, giving up over 240 yards per game through the air. The secondary is another question mark entering week one.
3. SEC Road Schedule – While the Gamecocks do have a rather favorable schedule overall, the SEC road schedule could be a hindrance getting back to Atlanta. With road games at Georgia, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas, it makes for a tough stretch – especially the three-game stretch of playing in Starkville, Knoxville and Fayetteville back-to-back-to-back. I think this football team will be prepared and be okay, but the road schedule certainly looks tough.