The Gamecocks are 7-1 and playing football with a crushing defense and a ball-control rushing offense.
Sounds similar to two other programs playing football in the SEC west, does it not?
Laugh all you want, but in the SEC, South Carolina's closest cousins are the Crimson Tide and the Tigers.
Here is why.
Numbers don't lie.
I have the three teams rankings in passing defense, rushing defense, passing offense and passing defense.
I won't tell you who is who right away.
|Rushing||229.3 (14th)||44.9 (1st)|
|Passing||228.4 (60th)||135.6 (2nd)|
|Rushing||202.0 (23rd)||130.3 (39th)|
|Passing||186.3 (93rd)||135.9 (3rd)|
|Rushing||189.0 (33rd)||76.6 (3rd)|
|Passing||183.1 (95th)||174.8 (9th)|
So, who is who? All three teams struggle with their passing, and all three are highly rated running teams. They are all top four in total defense, with one struggling against the run.
Team 1 is Alabama.
Team 2 is South Carolina.
Team 3 is LSU.
The biggest indicator that South Carolina is an inferior team right now is the running defense, and yes, that must be shored up.
Everything else matches favorably, even though Alabama's rushing offense really boosts their overall offensive rank.
The University of Tennessee played all three of these teams, and got beaten by all three.
They lost to South Carolina 14-3, Alabama 37-6 and LSU 38-7.
In all three games, the defense dominated. In fact, South Carolina held them to less points, even with a horrible offensive performance.
But the efficient offenses of LSU and Alabama led them to much bigger blow outs in each of their games.
These three teams share a similar game plan. Tough defense, gritty running and a propensity for the big play. Each team wants to smash the opposition in the mouth and keep them from scoring. They aren't going to throw it all over the field. It isn't how they are built.
It's a tried and true plan that results in Ws.
Alabama and LSU have two very critical pieces that make them more dangerous than South Carolina.
For one, their offensive lines are miles ahead of that of the Gamecocks, and they both have more quality depth. It is even worse now that the Gamecocks have had to dig deep to replace starters on the offensive line, defensive backfield, at quarterback and at running back.
The Gamecocks are woefully thin. The Tigers and Tide are not.
All three teams have some potential first-round picks on their team. In fact, these three could have more 2012 first-round picks than any others. It would not surprise me at all to see all of these players drafted in the first and second rounds.
Alshon Jeffery, WR
Stephon Gilmore, CB
Melvin Ingram, DE
Devin Taylor, DE
Trent Richardson, RB
Dre' Kirkpatrick, CB
Courtney Upshaw, LB
Mark Barron, S
Morris Claiborne, CB
The Gamecocks are one consistent offense away from being as dominant as the two western programs. However, they do match up well against their remaining opponents and could come away with the East title again.
Then, in Atlanta, they could get the opportunity to show their big brothers they are here to stay.
Which opponent do I think it will be?
Alabama. They have the most consistent team and the better coach. They will beat the Tigers this weekend and win out to go to the SEC championship game.