However, the Gamecocks were unable to finish as SEC East champions thanks to their two losses to SEC West foes Auburn and Arkansas.
The SEC West was a thorn in the Gamecocks' side in 2011, but will they be able to overcome an even tougher SEC West schedule in 2012? South Carolina faces Arkansas and LSU, both schools that are expected to be in the Top 25 when preseason rankings are released.
Here are a few things the Gamecocks need to do to overcome the SEC West this season.
South Carolina's thorn in its side the past three seasons has been the University of Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have outscored the Gamecocks by an average score of 39-21 in three straight losses for the Gamecocks.
A big part of the reason for their ineptitude against the Razorbacks is the turnover battle. The Gamecocks turned the ball over eight times in those three games, as opposed to just three turnovers for the Razorbacks.
The last two times the Gamecocks played the LSU Tigers were back in 2007 and 2008. USC fared better, with an average score of 26-17, but the Gamecocks still averaged three turnovers a game in those two contests; LSU averaged just one.
It's hard to beat a team when you turn the ball over almost three times a game.
What needs to happen for the Gamecocks is they need to limit the mental mistakes and work on ball control. This offense certainly has the pieces in place to be a control-the-clock type of team with Connor Shaw running the show at the quarterback position.
South Carolina can overcome its SEC West foes if it can minimize the turnovers.
The Gamecocks have been burned by the big play against the Arkansas Razorbacks the last three years.
2011 saw a 98-yard kickoff returned for a touchdown by Dennis Johnson, a 68-yard touchdown catch by Jarius Wright and a 39-yard catch by Joe Adams.
2010 had two big catches from Cobi Hamilton and Wright; Hamilton's catch went for 39 yards, and Wright's catch went for 57 yards.
2009 saw a 46-yard catch by Greg Childs and a 69-yard catch by D.J. Williams.
Big plays can hurt a defense, and each of the past three seasons against Arkansas, it's either helped shorten the field of play or given the Razorbacks the touchdown. The South Carolina defense must show up to play against Arkansas this year.
On the flip side, the Gamecocks did a better job against LSU the last two times these teams faced off. In 2007, the Gamecocks only gave up one play of more than 30 yards, and that was a 33-yard catch by Trindon Holliday. In 2008, the defense gave up one catch for 36 yards to Demetrius Byrd.
As mentioned in the previous slide, South Carolina had a much closer margin of defeat against LSU than Arkansas.
The key to success? Limit the big play on defense.
The Gamecocks didn't have the luxury of Marcus Lattimore in the 2011 contest against the Arkansas Razorbacks.
And I bet coach Steve Spurrier wishes he did.
It's hard to say whether or not Lattimore would have affected the outcome of the 44-28 loss to the Razorbacks, but he certainly would have provided another option for the Gamecocks' offensive attack.
South Carolina suffered the injury bug, especially at the running back position, in 2011 and can't afford to have the same thing happen in 2012 against LSU and Arkansas. When you play the best teams, you want to have your best players available.
Think about it for a second.
If you are South Carolina, can you imagine playing without Connor Shaw, Marcus Lattimore, Jadeveon Clowney and DeVonte Holloman against these two teams?
The one good thing about Lattimore's injury was this team came together as one and overcame the struggles to win some big games down the stretch. They know how to do it.
It's just easier if they don't have to.
Just as the title of this slide says, sometimes you have to find a way to be lucky.
College football can be a tricky thing, but it's always good to have some luck on your side.
South Carolina needs to take advantage of any luck that may come its way in 2012 against the SEC West. You have to take control when the opportunity is given to you.
It could be a muffed punt. A fumble in the opponent's territory. A lucky bounce on an interception.
Whatever it may be, the Gamecocks need to find a way to use luck on their side to come out victorious.
The talent is there in Columbia. The coaching staff is in place. The fanbase is behind them.
A little luck wouldn't hurt now, would it?