South Carolina Football: 2012 Gamecocks Are Serious National Title Contenders

Kevin KingSenior Analyst IIAugust 16, 2012

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 26:  Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers is tackled by teammates Drew Owens #88 of the South Carolina Gamecocks and Jadeveon Clowney #7 during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Why should the college football world consider South Carolina a serious national title contender?

Glad you asked.

For one, the national title winner has come from the SEC for the past six years. In the case of Alabama last year, the Tide didn't even have to win the conference championship—a very unusual happening. That will not affect the Gamecocks one way or the other. 

Secondly, South Carolina possesses all the tangible qualities needed to win a title. An explosive offense that can play ball control, a great defense, a good kicking game, great coaching and a SEC pedigree.

The Gamecocks begin this year ranked No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. There was some talk of them receiving at least one first place vote but apparently, that was incorrect.

When Lane Kiffin said he did not use his No. 1 vote for Southern California, it was assumed he must have meant South Carolina, since his ballot did say USC, No. 1. 

Apparently, they mixed the two up at vote counting central. To keep from having the issue come up again, coach Kiffin gave up his vote for the rest of the year. Not a better guy around than ol Lane.

But darn, South Carolina may have needed that vote later on.

Even without Coach Kiffin's vote, the Gamecocks are poised for a championship run. First for the SEC and possibly, the national title.

This year, it appears their super running back Marcus Lattimore is completely healthy again. He also has a high quality relief man in Kenny Miles. Miles, along with Brandon Wilds, stepped in and did a very good job in relief when Lattimore went out for the year with a knee injury.

Junior quarterback Connor Shaw learned the ropes last year. He earned the starting position when Stephen Garcia was dismissed from school after the fifth game.

Though super receiver Alshon Jeffery has gone on to the NFL, South Carolina has a quality group in 2012. Junior Ace Sanders, senior DL Moore and freshman South Carolina Mr. Football of 2011, Shaq Roland, will be the main targets. As a group, they are a little faster this year and Shaq Roland will likely be a star.

Defensively, South Carolina is loaded again. Last year's group held opponents to 18 points per game and ranked in the top-10 nationally. This year's squad may be even better.

New defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has worked with Spurrier here since '08. He and former coordinator Ellis Johnson worked together with the defense for four years. Ward has said his version of the defense will likely be even more aggressive than Johnson's.  

South Carolina has all the tangible elements. Time will tell if the main intangible, luck, is present.

That's right, luck! Every team has one or two games during a championship run where a ball bounces its way.

It gets a turnover or recovers its own fumble, etc. Something happens that allows teams to save a win or pull one away from a defeat.

Who just said "that didn't happen for Alabama last year?" Yes it did!

When No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State, that allowed Alabama to move back into the No. 2 slot. Otherwise, it would have been Oklahoma State getting waxed by LSU in the BCS Championship Game.

It happens every year. It happens to every championship team somewhere along the way. Back in 1998 when Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner fumbled and Tennessee recovered with less than three minutes to play. UT then drove the ball 50 yards and won the ball game.

UT still had to go the 50 yards to win, so it did earn the right. But if Arky had not fumbled, the Razorbacks likely run out the clock and Tennessee loses the game—and a shot at the national title—24-20.

Afterward, a reporter asked Phillip Fulmer if UT should feel lucky to still be in the title hunt, to which Fulmer quickly replied "Why not UT? We deserve to win it as much as anyone." I agreed with Fulmer then.

Now it's the time to say, "why not South Carolina"?