SEC Championship talk: The case for South Carolina

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SDS will be taking a look at the six main contenders in the SEC for 2013. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina headline the conference. Next up, South Carolina.

Championship Talk

South Carolina Gamecocks

Coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons, South Carolina looks ready to take the next step and win their first SEC Championship. The SEC East banner is looking a little dusty, and it’s time to replace it with a championship banner. The Gamecocks are interesting in 2013. Why? Florida has questions on offense, and Georgia has questions on defense. South Carolina could be the most complete team. Here are three reasons why Carolina will win the SEC, and none of them include the conference’s best defensive line:

Why they will

1. Schedule: Championships are hard to win no matter what conference teams are in, but when teams have the most favorable schedule, they have to take advantage of it. And that’s exactly what Carolina has. It’s more favorable than Florida and Georgia, and outside of three games, it should have the Gamecocks licking their chops. That’s the biggest advantage USC has entering 2013, and they must capitalize on it.

Related: ‘The Georgia Game’ means everything for Carolina

2. Steve Spurrier: Does this guy’s game ever stop evolving? Spurrier’s coaching evolution is one of the most underrated storylines in college football. How his offensive identity went from the Fun ‘N Gun to the Ground ‘N Pound has been fun to watch. Now, this could be his best overall team since he started at Carolina in 2005. He’s built the program into a perennial championship contender, and now it’s time to finally win one. Spurrier’s close to catching Bear Bryant.

3. Connor Shaw: Ironically, most say Shaw is the reason Carolina won’t win a championship. I think the opposite. He’s the offense’s biggest asset, the SEC’s most underrated player and now he takes over the reins from the departed Marcus Lattimore. And speaking of Lattimore, the Gamecocks were 9-1 without him in the last two years; so, the running game is going to be fine. Shaw is 17-3 as a starter, and as a senior leader, it’s go time. Yeah, Dylan Thompson will sprinkle in throughout the season, but this is Shaw’s team. I like him to have another strong season – running and throwing.

Why they won’t

1. Not elite: Outside of Jadeveon Clowney and the defensive line, can you name another position the Gamecocks will reach elite status? They don’t have as good of an offense as Georgia, and Florida should have a better defense. Florida is good enough to be able to grind out a win on the road in Columbia, and the Bulldogs can outscore the Gamecocks in week two. Theoretically – playing devil’s advocate – they don’t have many players who scare you on offense or defense. Every player will have to elevate his game in order to get to Atlanta, regardless of a favorable schedule or not.

Related: The SEC’s most underrated rivalry: South Carolina vs. Georgia

2. Defensive leader: The mouth and swagger of the Gamecocks’ defense is gone. DJ Swearinger set the tone for the team with his leadership and blow after blow to would-be receivers and ball carriers. Who’s the next Carolina standard setter? The coaches want more out of Jadeveon Clowney, both in leadership and motor. DT Kelcy Quarles can be that guy, but largely, it’s a big unknown for a defense that replaces its top five tacklers at linebacker.

Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • As a USC fan, I do agree with the “Not Elite” talent label. However, I believe that they are solid at all positions and well coached. They have as much if not more talent on their roster as the last 2 years but you would never because ALL ANYONE TALKS ABOUT IS CLOWNEY.

  • The South Carolina defense will be a big surprise this year. The Linebacker position is much upgraded in terms of athleticism. Kaiwan Lewis is a stud middle linebacker. What is clearly lacking from an experience standpoint will be made up for in terms of play-making ability. Victor Hampton is the new leader on the Defense and will more than make up for the absence of DJ Swag. He is a vocal, hard working, talented corner and he is going to be a big surprise this year in the SEC. Great defense always, always, always starts with the line and Carolina has the best, deepest, most talented D line in the nation.