South Carolina Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

Lee Schechter@@leeschechterContributor IIIMay 28, 2014

South Carolina Football: Early Game-by-Game Prediction for the 2014 Season

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    RICHARD SHIRO/Associated Press

    It's almost summer, which means that the college football season is also not too far away for the South Carolina Gamecocks. 

    South Carolina is coming off its third straight year of having a top-five ranking at the end of the season. The Gamecocks have quickly become an elite squad in the realm of college football, though this year's team could be more talented than the teams prior. 

    Offensively, the Gamecocks pack a huge punch with a versatile rushing attack led by Mike Davis who works behind one of the country's best offensive lines. Defensively, South Carolina has some gaps to fill, but the athleticism is there to carry this team a long way. 

    The Gamecocks still have their eyes set on an SEC title under head coach Steve Spurrier's era. And this could also be the year they make a run at the national championship in the new playoff format. 

    It's early in the year with regard to college football, but it's time to start making picks. 

    Here is my early game-by-game prediction for the South Carolina Gamecocks' 2014 college football season. 

Vs. Texas A&M

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    Dave Einsel/Associated Press

    Normally, this would be a brutal first game of the season for South Carolina. 

    Luckily, the Gamecocks do not have to deal with Johnny Manziel, Jake Matthews or Mike Evans, who led the potent Texas A&M offense for head coach Kevin Sumlin last season. 

    The Aggies will continue to have a quick offfense, especially if Speedy Noil has an instant impact. Defensively, Texas A&M will be good enough to slow down South Carolina's versatile offense, too. 

    With this game taking place at Williams-Brice Stadium, and Spurrier having his team prepared for the season opener, I like the Gamecocks because I see Texas A&M struggling a little bit to get going this season. Whether you like Manziel or not, it's going to be a challenge to develop the Texas A&M offense to perform at that high of a level in the first game. 

    South Carolina has the upper hand and home-field advantage. 


    Texas A&M 23, South Carolina 30



Vs. East Carolina

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    East Carolina continues to be a pretty solid team despite not landing in the sphere of high-profile teams from the South. 

    Coming off of a 10-win season, and a pair of respectable road wins against North Carolina and North Carolina State in 2013, the Pirates mean business. And they are not afraid of a powerhouse team, even when the game is played on the road. 

    East Carolina still airs it out offensively and has a fast defense, but that will not be enough to pull off the major upset on the Gamecocks' home turf. 


    East Carolina 20, South Carolina 34


Vs. Georgia

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    USA TODAY Sports

    This rivalry is shaping up to be a great one, and, while the last few seasons have had really meaningful early season games, this year's could be even bigger. 

    It's a toss up between South Carolina and Georgia to win the SEC East and make a run at the SEC title if either can upset the early favorite, Alabama. 

    Georgia boasts an elite rushing attack with Todd Gurley. So long as Gurley is healthy, he is nearly impossible to stop. South Carolina will have to contain Gurley and unleash its own ground assault with Mike Davis. 

    A healthy Georgia team is better than a healthy South Carolina, in my opinion. The home-field advantage could be big for South Carolina, though.

    Will Spurrier's squad slip up and lose to Georgia in back-to-back seasons? 

    Start up the debate in this national marquee matchup. South Carolina fans won't be happy with my early prediction. 


    Georgia 31, South Carolina 30


At Vanderbilt

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    James Franklin took off running to Penn State, leaving a rising Vanderbilt football program in the highly capable hands of Derek Mason. Mason comes over from Stanford and knows how to coach a pro-style team, which is what Franklin employed during his tenure with the Commodores. 

    Vanderbilt is not the pushover team it used to be during the bulk of the team's history, but it isn't ready to beat a really good South Carolina team seeking revenge after an early season loss to its rival Georgia. 

    Mike Davis bounces back with a big game after being slowed down in the battle with Georgia. The South Carolina defense forces three turnovers in this contest. 


    South Carolina 34, Vanderbilt 18


Vs. Missouri

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Missouri will come back in 2014 and play angry against South Carolina. The Tigers let a great opportunity slip away when fan-favorite and workhorse quarterback Connor Shaw rescued his Gamecocks with a huge second half in 2013. 

    Missouri will not let a lead slip away. 

    South Carolina needs to go up early on Missouri and not look back because this will be an emotional game for the Tigers. 

    Maty Mauk is capable of making magic happen on the field for his offense, though the assumed absence of Dorial Green-Beckham will be a major blow considering the inexperience in the South Carolina secondary. No one would have been able to square up with Green-Beckham, one of the game's best receivers. 

    It's hard not to like the Gamecocks in this one. 


    Missouri 21, South Carolina 31


At Kentucky

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    USA TODAY Sports

    I really like Mark Stoops, the head coach at Kentucky. He is taking all of the right steps to build up a program that has been utterly pathetic in recent years. Kentucky may be a basketball school, but the Wildcats live in the SEC which gives them big potential to produce a strong football team. 

    Stoops has a better team than he had last season. But, the ability to go from a 2-10 mark to a season where your team beats one of the best in the country just isn't going to happen. 

    To be fair, Kentucky played tough against South Carolina last season, though most of those scores came in the fourth quarter when the Gamecocks checked out mentally. 

    The Gamecocks cannot let up and assume this is an easy win, even though, quite frankly, it should be an easy win. 

    I like what Stoops is doing at Kentucky and maybe things will be different in a year or two, but right now this is all South Carolina. 


    South Carolina 38, Kentucky 20


Vs. Furman

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Furman played one ranked team in 2013, and it was LSU. And it didn't go well for the Furman Paladins.

    Furman did beat a tough Georgia Southern team that upset the Florida Gators in dramatic fashion. But, that isn't enough for me to put any confidence in the Paladins in 2014. 

    South Carolina will beat down Furman just like LSU did in 2013. 

    There's really nothing else to say about this matchup. 


    Furman 16, South Carolina 41

At Auburn

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Auburn surprised the college football world in 2013, as the Tigers fell just short of a national championship. 

    Head coach Gus Malzahn schemed his way to putting one of the nation's best offenses on the field each week. Led by Tre Mason, the Auburn ground attack was exceptional. With Mason gone, Malzahn will transition the run game, but the team still has dual-threat quarterback and electrifying player, Nick Marshall, at the helm. 

    Mike Davis will give the Auburn defense fits. Shaq Roland and the passing game will also test Auburn in what I think will be its toughest game up to this point of the college football season. 

    What worries me the most about this matchup for the Gamecocks is the defensive front. The defensive linemen will need to break into the backfield early and be disruptive. The linebackers can only stop plays in the gaps so many times before the defense fully breaks down. 

    Auburn makes magic happen unless the offense feels the pressure, and even then who knows what the Tigers are capable of. 

    South Carolina will go toe-to-toe with one of the nation's top teams, but ultimately fall short due to the inability to slow down the Tigers' deadly offensive game plan enough to minimize the damage. 


    South Carolina 24, Auburn 30


Vs. Tennessee

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    USA TODAY Sports

    I get called out every year for underestimating the Tennessee Volunteers. I don't know what it is, but I just have a tough time trusting in the Vols each season. 

    I didn't expect Tennessee to do much of anything against South Carolina in 2013, but the Vols jumped out to a fast start and then closed out the game with a field goal as time expired. 

    Will I eat my words again in 2014? 

    I'm going to say no. I have full faith in the Gamecocks being able to seek revenge and win this one. Barring injuries, South Carolina is still the better team. Though Tennessee is another SEC team rebuilding by signing some impressive recruits and swiping them away from other SEC schools. 

    South Carolina wins, but it will be a close one again because these two teams always go at it. 


    Tennessee 17, South Carolina 23


At Florida

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Florida, Florida, Florida, where do I begin? 

    With the Gators, it's tough to know what you are going to get on the field. Last season was a total implosion as the Gators tanked the final seven games of the year, missing a bowl game or any chance of salvaging positives from a horrible year. 

    Ever since the departure of Urban Meyer, Florida has been up and down too much to gauge what the team is capable of. While I do not expect another eight-loss season for the Gators, I don't think they will manage to do anything remarkable in 2014. 

    Spurrier seems to know how to beat his alma mater despite a smackdown in 2012 at the hands of the Gators. 

    Florida just doesn't have enough to take down the Gamecocks in 2014, even though this game takes place down in The Swamp. 


    South Carolina 24, Florida 17


Vs. South Alabama

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    USA TODAY Sports

    If the Furman game was a pushover, then the South Alabama game is built in to be even more of a beatdown. 

    South Alabama just doesn't have enough to pull off any dramatic moments against South Carolina. 

    It's at home. 

    It's against South Alabama. 

    Oh, did I mention that the team is South Alabama? 

    This is a no-contest. 

    South Carolina wins in big fashion. 


    South Alabama 10, South Carolina 45


At Clemson

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    There is nothing like the end of the season Palmetto State rivalry game between Clemson and South Carolina. 

    Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney loves to bicker with Spurrier and vice versa. It makes for a great buildup, a great atmosphere and a hostile environment for the game. 

    Clemson has the opportunity to touch Howard's Rock as this game is played at home for the Tigers. But, Howard's Rock cannot help them replace the loss of star quarterback Tajh Boyd and star wide receiver and No.3 overall pick in the NFL draft, Sammy Watkins. 

    Clemson will need to find new options to boost the offense's production. 

    It is going to be a nasty environment at Memorial Stadium, but South Carolina will prevail as Mike Davis turns out a monster performance with 150-plus rushing yards and two touchdowns. 

    Swinney and Spurrier will have choice words to describe the other in the post game and Swinney will not be the one gloating about a victory. 

    South Carolina will go into Memorial Stadium and come away with a win. 


    South Carolina 28, Clemson 23