South Carolina: Can the Gamecocks Still Win the SEC East?
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It is still mathematically possible for the Gamecocks to win the SEC East division and play for the SEC championship on December 4, in Atlanta, GA.
Will South Carolina win the SEC East?
That remains to be seen and the road there isn't getting any easier.
Of course it is going to take more than pure possibility for them to get there. As everyone knows, a season in the SEC is tougher than any other conference.
Each week your team is challenged to play their best to avoid a devastating upset from an underdog team.
After the 35-27 loss to Auburn, a lot of Gamecock fans seemed to go into meltdown mode. A lot of fans threw in the towel on this year's team with comments of "Same old Carolina," and "Fire Spurrier."
I'll admit I was upset with the loss, but thought the reaction from some fans was inappropriate. So, to try to appeal to these fans, I'm going to answer their most troubling question.
How Do the Gamecocks Get to Atlanta?
The current SEC East standings have the Florida Gators in first place with a 2-0 SEC record with Carolina in second place at 1-1.
South Carolina essentially controls their own destiny now that Georgia has slid to 0-3 in conference play.
If the rest of the season unfolds as I predict, the game between Florida and South Carolina (as I predicted in my preseason preview) will determine the SEC East winner.
So here is how I see the SEC East unfolding...
Florida travels to Alabama on Saturday October 2, in a prime-time CBS battle. I give the edge to Alabama in this one.
That puts Florida at 2-1 and South Carolina at 1-1 (bye week this week) in conference play. And just to quiet anyone that wants to argue that Vanderbilt is currently tied with USC in the East...
Georgia will right the ship a bit when they beat Vandy in two weeks. Then the following week, South Carolina takes care of the Commodores sending them back to the SEC cellar.
Back on track now, October 9, Alabama travels to Columbia to take on the Gamecocks. I give 'Bama a slight advantage in this one with the possibility of an upset.
To South Carolina's advantage, they have two weeks to prepare for the Tide and it's a home game (the Williams-Brice crowd will be the craziest and loudest ever. Period. You can count on it.)
Florida has LSU at home that week and I see this as one of two games the Gators could lose before they play Carolina.
For Carolina fans, you have to pull for LSU in this one. And for Carolina's SEC chances, LSU needs to win this game.
It'll be a tough task considering the Tigers haven't beaten Florida in Gainesville since 2004. But for the sake of this article, let's say LSU beats Florida.
Now the East has Florida at 2-2 and Carolina at 1-2.
On October 16, Carolina travels to Lexington to face the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Gamecocks are currently riding a 10-game winning streak against the Wildcats and need that streak to continue to win the East.
I see the streak moving to 11 in a row and Carolina picks up a crucial win.
Florida welcomes Mississippi State to "The Swamp" and sends the Bulldogs home with their tails between their legs.
SEC East standings: Florida 3-2, South Carolina 2-2.
South Carolina picks up a win over Vanderbilt on October 23, while Florida is idle this week. Both teams are now tied atop the East at 3-2.
Saturday October 30, "The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party." Florida versus Georgia. Georgia hasn't won since 2007 and at this point the Bulldogs could be looking at either a 1-5 to 3-3 record in conference play.
This game could prove pivotal in whether or not coach Mark Richt returns next season. I don't think they would fire a coach after one bad year, but you never know.
If Florida beat LSU back on October 9, Carolina needs Georgia to beat Florida. If LSU wins and the Bulldogs pull off the upset anyway, it would be a huge plus to the Gamecocks.
My gut tells me the Gators win this one.
Carolina faces Tennessee this week at home and has revenge on their minds after the embarrassing Halloween loss a year ago.
Carolina cruises and the SEC East is still tied, now with both teams sitting at 4-2.
On November 6, Carolina welcomes the Arkansas Razorbacks. If I had to pick one game on the Gamecock schedule that worries me the most, it would be this one.
This is a game Carolina would like to win, but they don't have to as far as the SEC East goes. Now if Florida beats both LSU and Georgia, this becomes a must-win for Carolina.
I would love to say Carolina gets the win, but either way, they still have a good shot to win the East. For the sake of this article, let's say the Razorbacks pull out a squeaker.
Florida whips Vanderbilt this week so that takes them to 5-2 with Carolina at 4-3 and the showdown in Gainesville looming the week after (November 13).
The winner of this game wins the East. If Carolina wins, both teams are tied and the Gamecocks go to Atlanta because they won the head-to-head matchup.
If Florida wins, they finish with the better record of 6-2 versus Carolina's 4-4.
As you can see, South Carolina needs a little help to get to Atlanta, but it will all boil down to the game at Florida. Win and we're in.
Who Will South Carolina Depend Upon to Get Them to Atlanta?
Offensively the Gamecocks need QB Stephen Garcia to limit his mistakes and keep throwing it to electric WR Alshon Jefferey.
As the offensive line continues to improve, keep feeding the ball to freshman sensation RB Marcus Lattimore.
Freshman WR Ace Sanders needs to get more touches, but it's hard with a large group of talented receivers.
Defensively, the Gamecocks have to generate a better pass rush and it starts with senior DE Cliff Matthews. Matthew's was poised for a huge final season after a good offseason, but has yet to fully be the game changer this year that Carolina needs.
Sophomore CB Stephon Gilmore is another player that Carolina will depend upon. With the recent tweaking of the coverage scheme after the Auburn loss, I expect Carolina to be more aggressive in coverage and pass rush, and hopefully cause some more turnovers.
Now that I've answered your questions/concerns about how South Carolina gets to Atlanta, one more question needs to be answered.
Who Would South Carolina Face in SEC Championship Game?
Will it be a rematch against either Auburn, Alabama, or Arkansas? Or maybe a run-in with old "friend" Les Miles and LSU?
The race in the West is wide open at this point, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out. If I had to pick a winner right now, I'd go with Alabama.
No one else has proved they're as legit as the Tide, but I expect some Tigers might want to do something about that.
To wrap it up. It is still possible for South Carolina to play for the SEC title. How likely it is to happen remains to be seen.
Again this is all hypothetical. If you're a Gamecock fan, relax and breathe a little. One loss doesn't ruin your season. If Carolina doesn't make it to Atlanta this year, it's OK.
This team will have more chances in the years to come with all the young talent in Columbia.
And remember, Carolina will still beat Clemson, and that's what matters most in the end (at least to this Gamecock).
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