For most programs going 7-5 (3-5) for the season wouldn't be much to get excited about. In fact, going 7-5 in some programs would have the head coach looking in the classifieds for a new job.
But, at the University of South Carolina, their 7-5 2009 season has all the harbingers of much better things to come in next few years. The Gamecocks pulled off some massive upsets this year like their 16-10 victory over then #4 Ole Miss. Unfortunately, The Gamecocks, again, faded against the powerhouses of the SEC late in the season.
This annual late season fade has become a something of a common trend for most of Coach Spurrier's time in Columbia. However, unlike those other late season fades, this year Carolina seemed to be in almost all those games with very legitimate chances at pulling off the victory ie. against Florida and against eventual SEC Champ Alabama.
A big part of this new legitimacy is due to the play of Gamecock QB Steven Garcia. Despite throwing some costly interceptions in big games, Garcia has given the Gamecocks the consistency that they've been missing from the position since the days of Steve Tanneyhill.
Garcia's solid 56% completetion rate with 17 TDS and 9 Ints are a solid stat-line for a Sophmore getting accostomed to being a starting Quarterback in college football's toughest's conference.
With two years of experience under his belt, Garcia should show even more poise and maturity in the pocket next year for the Gamecocks and cut down on the inexperienced mistakes that cost USC some big wins this year.
USC's defense has always been a strong point for the program. USC's D proved their mettle once again by reducing Heisman Candidate C.J Spiller to a non-factor in their upset victory of ACC division champ Clemson in the final game of the regular season.
With 21 Sophomores and 30 juniors returning to the program in 2010, USC should be able to building on their solid core of players to become a legitimate SEC threat in 2010 and 2011.
SEC powerhouses like Florida, Alabama and Tennessee know that facing a tough and hard-hitting Gamecock team is always a dangerous proposition. For most of the Spurrier years, the Gamecocks have been known as the team that on any given Saturday could beat anyone in the SEC. The key now for Coach Spurrier and his team is to turn those big isolated upsets into a consistent theme against all SEC opposition in the same season. With all the pieces of a good football team present for the next two years, now is the time for Gamecocks to take their program to the next level in the SEC hierarchy.