Expectations in Columbia, S.C., are higher than ever. That said, Steve Spurrier has not gotten his Gamecocks over the hump quite yet.
Now in year four of the Spurrier project, many people are projecting big strides from South Carolina this year.
Here is the way I see the Gamecocks’ season playing out:
Aug. 28 vs. N.C. State
My call: South Carolina, 27-13 (1-0)
Sept. 4 at Vanderbilt
Vandy’s win in Columbia last year is still stinging the Gamecocks. This year, Vandy will struggle just to get a first down. Carolina won’t do much better, but the Head Ball Coach will take the win.
My call: South Carolina, 20-6 (2-0)
Sept. 13 vs. Georgia
The Gamecocks stuffed the Georgia offense last year, so expect the Bulldogs to be ready to play. Carolina will put up a tough fight, but I see Georgia pulling away late.
My call: Georgia, 24-20 (2-1)
Sept. 20 vs. Wofford
Wofford gave Carolina fans quite the scare in 2006, almost springing an upset. Wofford will rack up some yards with their crazy rush offense, but Carolina will eventually put them away.
My call: South Carolina, 30-17 (3-1)
Sept. 27 vs. Alabama-Birmingham
UAB is bad. And their schedule ain’t pretty either. Both are positives for the Cocks.
My call: South Carolina, 48-10 (4-1)
Oct. 4 at Mississippi
Former Gamecock defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix is now running the defense for Ole Miss, which makes this game an interesting match-up.
Plain and simple, this is a huge game for South Carolina. A win solidifies a strong start, but a costly loss would be indicative of yet another roller-coaster year for Gamecock fans.
Something tells me Spurrier will have something up his sleeve for Coach Nix.
My call: South Carolina, 31-21 (5-1)
Oct. 11 at Kentucky
Yet again, this is a chance for South Carolina to put bad habits behind them.
But while this year’s Gamecock team seems different than those of years past, history tells me that they won’t win this game, despite being a better team. Carolina loses a heartbreaker.
My call: Kentucky 27-24 (5-2)
Oct. 18 vs. LSU
It was at this point last season that South Carolina had a meltdown and never recovered. LSU will come into Columbia in the middle of a very difficult stretch—which means they will be desperate for a win.
Despite a well-played game by Carolina, I see LSU escaping Columbia with a win they don’t deserve.
My call: LSU 31-28 (5-3)
Nov. 1 vs. Tennessee
The Gamecocks had to swallow a bitter pill last season in Knoxville when Daniel Lincoln got two chances to nail the game-winning field goal.
Spurrier seems to have Phil Fulmer’s number, and I expect that to continue this year. Another nail-biter will ensue, but this time the Gamecocks will come out on top.
My call: South Carolina 24-23 (6-3)
Nov. 8 vs. Arkansas
The Hogs will give Carolina fits, but defense and special teams wins out, as Carolina pulls off another close one.
My call: South Carolina, 34-31 (7-3)
Nov. 15 at Florida
Florida tore through Carolina’s defense last year—and it looked ridiculously easy. Even if the Gamecocks get some offense going, it won’t be enough to keep up with the Gators.
My call: Florida, 48-24 (7-4)
Nov. 29 at Clemson
Clemson should enter the game having sealed up a spot in the ACC title game.
But Clemson always seems to find a way to choke away the dream season. Despite being heavy favorites, the Tigers have kicked last-second field goals in the last two games of this series.
The 2006 kick had all of Columbia singing Beyonce’s “To the left,” as the Gamecocks left Clemson with a three-point win in hand.
Meanwhile, the 2007 kick handed the Gamecocks their fifth loss in a row—eliminating them from a bowl appearance.
The tight game trend continues, but the visiting Gamecocks win again, evening Spurrier’s record to 2-2 vs. Clemson.
My call: South Carolina, 23-21 (8-4)
The 8-4 overall record gives the Gamecocks a third-place finish in the East, as their tie-breaker with Tennessee drops the Vols to the fourth spot.