Will Auburn repeat as SEC champions? What team will emerge as a division darkhorse no one’s talking about? It’s time for Year 2 of our two-week, daily ‘Crystal Ball’ series on how each of the SEC’s 14 teams will finish this fall.

We hit a couple big-time upsets last fall including Tennessee’s win over South Carolina, but didn’t expect 12 wins out of Mizzou, a BCS title-game run from Auburn or Florida’s faceplant in Will Muschamp’s third season.


2013 Crystal Ball Projection: 10-2, 6-2
2013 Actual: 11-2, 6-2


Aug. 28 vs. Texas A&M (W): South Carolina’s 9-0 under Steve Spurrier in season openers and has 18 consecutive wins at home. Throw in a first-year quarterback for the Aggies and the results are less than thrilling for Texas A&M.

Sept. 6 vs. East Carolina (W): Last time the Pirates came into Columbia with a highly-ranked passing offense they left with a 38-point bruise to its ego. Quarterback Shane Carden will test an inexperienced secondary if he has time. That’s an issue for East Carolina who doesn’t have the comparable strength at the line of scrimmage.

Sept. 13 vs. Georgia (W): The Gamecocks have outscored the Bulldogs 52-13 over the last two meetings at Williams-Brice Stadium, two miserable offensive performances for Mark Richt’s bunch. An extra week to prepare will certainly benefit Georgia and likely keep it close, but South Carolina’s home streak will continue in an early battle of Eastern Division contenders.

Sept. 20 at Vanderbilt (W): Is Spurrier’s team on upset alert at Vanderbilt? For some reason, it never looks easy for the Gamecocks in Nashville. A steady dose of Mike Davis eventually wears down the defense en route to a couple second-half touchdowns to put it away.

Sept. 27 vs. Mizzou (W): It won’t take two overtimes this time around as South Carolina stays in the Top 10 and snaps the Tigers’ four-game winning streak to start the season.

Oct. 4 at Kentucky (W): The second road trip of the year for the Gamecocks is much like the first — avoid going through the motions as a double-digit favorite. South Carolina renews its focus and improves to 6-0 by a couple touchdowns.

Oct. 18 vs. Furman (W): Swatting in-state foes not named Clemson has often been a headache for the Gamecocks during the Spurrier until South Carolina broke that trend last season with a 60-point win over Coastal Carolina. The Paladins won’t compete.

Oct. 25 at Auburn (L): A win at Auburn puts South Carolina in the heart of the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff picture. The Gamecocks haven’t beaten the Tigers since 1933 and Gus Malzahn’s rushing attack will be too much to handle in a battle of Top 10s.

Nov. 1 vs. Tennessee (W): Payback. The Vols derailed division title hopes last fall with a last-second field goal at Neyland Stadium, but the Gamecocks are a much different team in Columbia.

Nov. 15 at Florida (L): Spurrier’s back for another return trip to his alma-mater with the Eastern Division championship on the line like it was in 2010. On that night, Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore led a stellar offensive performance that resulted in the program’s first win at The Swamp. This season with a better offense, the Gators deliver.

Nov. 22 vs. South Alabama (W): The Gamecocks push their home winning streak to 25 games on Senior Day a week before the Palmetto State Showdown.

Nov. 29 at Clemson (W): Perhaps the easiest game on the schedule to predict besides the non-conference home contests, South Carolina’s 5-year dominance over its in-state rival is now a mind game for the Tigers and they remember Dylan Thompon’s last performance in Death Valley vividly.

2014 PROJECTED FINISH: 10-2, 6-2

THE LOWDOWN: South Carolina’s one of four SEC teams we’re projecting who has a legitimate shot at the College Football Playoff along with an appearance in the SEC Championship this season. Despite being equipped with the necessary talent to get there over the last two seasons, four road losses have kept the Gamecocks from reaching their ultimate goal in Atlanta. There’s very little to show for a 33-6 mark since the start of the 2011 campaign other than sustained national relevancy and three bowl trophies. Seven league wins is the magic number to win the East, but no slip-ups are allowed.