If not for back-to-back road losses in Baton Rouge and Gainesville last October, the South Carolina Gamecocks may have been playing for the SEC Championship and perhaps the BCS National Championship last winter.
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks started out scorching-hot, winning their first six before hitting two speed bumps in October. South Carolina ended the season on a five-game winning streak after concluding the year with a come-from-behind win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
So, what does 2013 have in store?
Here we'll get you set with everything you need to know for Saturday's Garnet and Black Spring Game in Columbia.
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium, Columbia, S.C.
When: Saturday, April 13 at 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
Radio: 107.5 FM (Columbia, S.C.)
Position Battle to Watch: Running Back
The post-Marcus Lattimore era has begun in Columbia, as sophomores Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds are battling it out for the starting running back spot this spring.
Davis carried the ball 52 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns and caught four passes for 35 yards in 2012 as a freshman. The 5'9", 215-pound power back was a star for the Gamecocks in last week's scrimmage, rushing for 54 yards on four carries according to GamecocksOnline.com.
Meanwhile, Wilds, who sat out last season after being redshirted following a high ankle sprain, brings more height to the table at 6'2", 218 pounds. He rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown on four carries at last Saturday's scrimmage.
Both Davis and Wilds boast experience. Davis was the team's fourth-leading rusher in 2012, while Wilds rushed for over 100 yards in three games back in 2011 as a true freshman.
This will be an intriguing back-and-forth battle to watch for this weekend.
Area in Most Need of Improvement: Running Game
It's fitting that the top positional battle this spring is at running back considering South Carolina's running game is what must improve the most in 2013.
The Gamecocks ranked 91st in the nation in rushing last season, recording a little over 138 yards on the ground per game. In South Carolina's two losses it combined for just 70 rushing yards on 51 carries; a 1.4 yards per carry average.
Considering South Carolina lost 57 percent of last season's rushing production this offseason with the departure of Lattimore and senior Kenny Miles, Steve Spurrier will need to emphasis being physical up front and hitting the holes at this Saturday's Spring Game.
South Carolina must be able to pound the rock in order to have success in the SEC next fall. It's no secret that Spurrier loves to throw the ball all over the field, but developing a sturdy, reliable run game will go a long way for the Gamecocks in 2013 as they look to return to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2010.
What to Expect in 2013
The Gamecocks will open the 2013 season at home in a nationally televised Thursday night game against North Carolina. But not long after that, South Carolina will be tested early on, as it's set to visit SEC East rival Georgia on Sept. 7.
Fortunately, South Carolina will not have to play Alabama, Texas A&M or LSU in 2013 barring a potential matchup against one of the three in the SEC Championship.
After playing five of their first eight games away from Columbia, including three straight road games at Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri, the Gamecocks will round out the final third of their season at home inside a raucous Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina's two big late-season matchups to watch for will be against Florida (Nov. 16) and Clemson (Nov. 30).
Despite a few challenges within the conference, Gamecocks fans should expect another double-digit win campaign in 2013, as South Carolina is expected to once again be in the BCS mix at season's end.
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