Phil Steele had South Carolina at No. 21 on his preseason top 25. Some may think that's a stretch, but there are several head scratchers on his list.
I'm not here to talk about anyone else though; I'm here to talk about South Carolina and their opponents on that list.
The Gamecocks are talented and deep. They are also young. The youth has experience, but underclassmen dominate the roster.
The ingredients are there; it just hinges on everything mixing nicely.
I fully believe the Gamecocks will be a top-25 team come September and possibly a lot higher on the list come conference championships. Phil Steele gets no argument from me, but putting them at No. 25 wouldn't have bothered me either.
The Gamecocks will face five of the teams on Phil Steele's list. Alabama is on the list at No. 3 for some strange reason; why they aren't No. 1 is another article entirely. Florida ranks at No. 7, Auburn at No. 15, Arkansas at No. 17, and Steele ranks Georgia at No. 19.
These rankings aren't official, nor do they reflect what the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN top 25 polls will likely have as their preseason top 25. I will, however, use this ranking system to gauge the Gamecocks.
If Alabama, ranked No. 3, comes into South Carolina, with the Gamecocks having already played two of the ranked teams in Georgia and Auburn, the Alabama game will likely decide their fate. The Florida game is much later in the year, and too many things could happen between opening day and Nov. 13, when the Gamecocks travel to Gainesville.
The Gamecocks schedule, as noted in an earlier article, can help them greatly. Though the games against "ranked" opponents are on opposite ends of the schedule, over a four-game stretch the Gamecocks will play three of the five teams on the list: Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama.
Then Nov. 6, the Gamecocks host the Razorbacks and immediately after that game head to Florida to face the Gators in the Swamp. The Florida game is a must-win for the Gamecocks no matter their record going into that game.
Last season the Gamecocks were an upset choice against Florida and came close until a deflected Stephen Garcia pass wound up in the Gators' hands, and the game was never the same. This year, the Gators are the top dogs in the East again, and as always the Steve Spurrier/Florida tension is evident.
Phil Steele thinks the Gamecocks are on the right track apparently, and I agree, though the ever-lingering questions are there. Will this be the year: Spurrier wins an SEC title, Spurrier gets the ax, the Gamecocks break through...finally, or disappointment again?
Only time will tell, but seeing the Gamecocks in the preseason top 25 immediately splits the fanbase. There are those who are elated that the Gamecocks are getting the love, and then those who cringe and call it a curse.