As things stand right now, South Carolina is in line to play for their first-ever SEC Championship. But to be honest, we still have over half a season to play, so thinking about who your opponent would be for the SEC Championship is very premature.
Think about it too much and you will slip up somewhere along the way, and not make it to Atlanta. But, from all indications, this team is focused, and should have no problem preparing for one game at a time.
But for us fans, it is always fun to speculate, so to answer the question...
Then who would the Gamecocks want to face?
If given the option, my pick would be the LSU Tigers.
Out of the four teams in contention for the SEC West, LSU is the only team Carolina does not face this year during the regular season. I see this as an advantage.
Also, I believe LSU is the worst out of the four contenders, except maybe for Arkansas. Despite the win over Florida, the Tigers' offense hasn't looked as sharp as it needs to be to contend in the SEC, and the Gamecock defense would present some challenges to the Tigers.
Defensively, the Tigers are tough, but considering Florida was able to hang over 30 points on LSU, I don't see South Carolina having a problem doing the same.
If I had to rank the West's contenders from "most like to play" to "least like to play," it would look like this: LSU, Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn.
All four teams would present a tough matchup for South Carolina. LSU and Auburn have a QB capable of hurting you on the ground.
Arkansas' passing offense will challenge the Gamecock secondary, while slowing the Alabama rushing attack is difficult. (Unless you stack the box, and run up an 18 point first half lead.)
I like how Carolina matches up with Arkansas. Unlike Alabama, you don't have to account for the run as much from the Razorbacks.
That allows you to focus more on coverage and the pass rush. The Gamecocks were able to generate a lot of heat against Alabama QB Greg McElroy, sacking him seven times.
Defensively, I don't believe the Razorbacks could stop the potent Carolina offense.
I don't see LSU or Arkansas as the team most likely to end up in Atalanta, so the Alabama-Auburn game still looks like it will decide the SEC West winner.
In comparing the two most likely opponents for South Carolina (should they win the East) in the SEC Championship, I would rather face Alabama than Auburn.
Yep, you heard me right. I'm probably in the minority on this one, but I'll take the Tide over the Tigers.
As I've stated before, Carolina matches up better defensively against Alabama's offense than Auburn's offense, and they proved that Saturday. I also don't think the Gamecocks have a player capable of stopping Auburn QB Cameron Newton.
However, I would rather face a Gene Chizik team than a Nick Saban team in a game of this magnitude. Mostly because Chizik has never coached in a game of that magnitude, while Saban has and proved his team would be ready.
It is extremely tough to beat a team once, let alone twice in one season, but I'd rather have a rematch against a team I know how to beat, than one I wasn't able to beat the first time.
I know many would argue that Alabama would be out for revenge, and Carolina loses the big home field advantage, while Auburn would lose their home field advantage and have to face a vengeful Carolina.
But for me, I like our chances against Alabama. When it comes down to it, I like our chances against either team, and think both are beatable.
Again, this is all hypothetical, and there are way too many games left to think about who you would want to face in the SEC Championship. I hope for the team's sake they aren't thinking about it, and I doubt they are. For us fans, though, I think the discussion is fun.
If you were the Gamecocks, who would you want to face out of the SEC West contenders? Answer the poll and leave your reasoning in the comments.