South Carolina Football: Preview of 2014 season

The fourth ranked South Carolina Gamecocks are coming off of their third straight 11-2 season, but expectations are even higher this year.

Coach Steve Spurrier is hungry for an SEC title with the Gamecocks after coming agonizingly close this past season.  If not for an inexplicable loss at struggling Tennessee last year, the Gamecocks would have played in Atlanta in December.

It’s time to take a look at South Carolina’s schedule for this upcoming season.

The out of conference will be highlighted by a game in Death Valley against bitter rival Clemson.  The Tigers are coming off a win in the Orange Bowl and yet another impressive season under Dabo Swinney.  Losing Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins to the NFL will hurt, but expect the Tigers to be a stiff challenge, especially on the road.

The rest of the out of conference opponents should be handled easily.  Furman and South Alabama at home will be very easy games, but East Carolina could present a challenge.  The Pirates gave the Gamecocks a scare in Stephen Garcia’s senior season, but expect the Gamecocks to take care of ECU with no problem in front of their home crowd.

The conference schedule will not be easy, but it is certainly a manageable one.  There should be no surprises in the East this year.  Kentucky and Vanderbilt will be tricky away games, but the Gamecocks won’t be too cocky going into those.  Both the Wildcats and Commodores have embarrassed the Gamecocks in recent seasons, and those games shouldn’t be taken lightly.

The Tennessee Volunteers have targets on their backs after last year’s game.  There is no game the team will look forward to more than the chance to avenge their loss on Rocky Top.  Tennessee played the Gamecocks tough in Columbia the last time, but this one will be special for Carolina.  

Florida will be a much better team than last season, and will present a big challenge.  Playing in The Swamp is never easy, and the Gamecocks will have to fight hard to win only their second game ever in Gainesville.  The first time South Carolina was victorious in The Swamp was behind Marcus Lattimore’s 200 yard performance.

The other game the Gamecocks will really look forward to is when the Georgia Bulldogs visit Columbia in early September.  An early season loss to the Dawgs put a sour taste in the Gamecocks’ mouths, and they will be eager for revenge.  The Gamecocks clobbered the Bulldogs 35-7 last time they came into town, and the fans will be prepared for an intense game.  It’s always a toss up in a rivalry game, but expect the Gamecocks to take care of business.

The West brings a new foe and a familiar nemesis.  Texas A&M travels to Columbia for a Thursday night season opener the entire country will be watching.  The Aggies will be playing their first SEC game without Johnny Football, and everyone will want to see what Mike Sumlin does without Manziel.  South Carolina will extend its nation best 18 game win streak to 19 as the home field advantage proves too much for a Texas A&M team that will have little chemistry.

The Gamecocks will have to travel to Auburn during the middle of the season, and that contest will prove to be a tough battle.  The Tigers will not be as strong as they were this past year with key pieces such as Tre Mason moving on, but this game will be a worry nonetheless.  The Gamecocks have historically struggled on the road, and this game will be no easy matter.

The Gamecocks must avoid a repeat of the Tennessee game from last season, but the Gamecocks can realistically win eleven or twelve games before bowl season.

South Carolina has had three consecutive 11-2 seasons, but this is the year the Gamecocks can potentially win the SEC, and expectations will be very high in Columbia come August.