In Gamecock land, there are two popular trains of thought. There are those who think that the 1984 South Carolina Gamecock team is the best South Carolina team of all time. This 10-win team was the first to reach that double-digit plateau, and the first (some may say only) team that had national championship chances.
Others say last year's 9-3 (regular season) SEC East-winning team was the best ever, due to the fact that it actually has something tangible to claim.
Now, there is the heart-filled team of 2011 that has overcome numerous injuries and issues to win 10 games with the potential to win 11 with a bowl win.
How do these three teams stack up? Can South Carolina look at this season and put it down as an all-time great? Let's take a look.
Coach: Joe Morrison
Final Ranking: 11th
|10/6/1984||Kansas State||W 49-17|
|10/20/1984||@ Notre Dame||W 36-32|
|10/27/1984||East Carolina||W 42-20|
|11/3/1984||@ North Carolina State||W 35-28|
|11/10/1984||Florida State||W 38-26|
|11/17/1984||@ Navy||L 21-38|
|11/24/1984||@ Clemson||W 22-21|
|12/28/1984||Oklahoma State||L 14-21|
Big Wins: Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Florida State, Clemson
Bad Losses: Navy
Final Defensive Rank: 24th
Coach: Steve Spurrier
Final Ranking: 22nd
|9/2/2010||Southern Mississippi||W 41-13|
|9/25/2010||@ Auburn||L 27-35|
|10/16/2010||@ Kentucky||L 28-31|
|10/23/2010||@ Vanderbilt||W 21-7|
|11/13/2010||@ Florida||W 36-14|
|11/27/2010||@ Clemson||W 29-7|
|12/4/2010||@ Auburn||L 17-56|
|12/31/2010||@ Florida State||L 17-26|
Big Wins: Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Clemson
Bad Losses: Arkansas, Auburn, Florida State
Defensive Rank: 52nd
Coach: Steve Spurrier
Current Ranking: 14
|9/3/2011|| East Carolina ||W 56-37|
|9/24/2011||Vanderbilt|| W 21-3
|10/8/2011||Kentucky|| W 54-3
|10/15/2011|| @ Mississippi State ||W 14-12|
|10/29/2011||@ Tennessee||W 14-3|
|11/5/2011||@ Arkansas||L 28-44|
| 11/12/2011 ||Florida||W 17-12|
|11/19/2011|| The Citadel ||W 41-20|
|11/26/2011||Clemson|| W 34-13
| || Bowl Game TBA |
Big Wins: Georgia, Florida, Clemson
Bad Losses: Auburn
|Connor Shaw ||9||116||483||4.2||7|
Defensive Rank: 4th
In 1984, South Carolina was known as a power running team. The quarterbacks (Mike Hold, and Allen Mitchell), were both dual-threat type of guys, but really struggled as passers, throwing almost as many interceptions as touchdowns.
In 2011, the season came down to a tale of two quarterbacks. Stephen Garcia was plain-old awful, while Connor Shaw showed flashes of brilliance in games both as a runner and a passer. These two guys actually compare favorably to the men in 1984.
However, 2010 is the season of quarterbacks, as Stephen Garcia actually had an excellent year.
The edge for quarterbacks? Surprisingly goes to 2010.
1984 was a great year for South Carolina's runners. They had five legit running threats. Even though no one went over 1,000 yards there were three who went over 500 (Thomas Dendy, Quinton Lewis and Kent Hagood), and five runners including quarterback Mike Hold who rushed for four or more touchdowns.
2010 saw the emergence of potentially the greatest running back in SC history. Marcus Lattimore went crazy against the opposition, rushing for 1,164 yards with 17 touchdowns. Brian Maddox was a good change-of-pace back, as he ran for 379 yards and three scores. Beyond those two guys, there wasn't much production.
2011 was similar to 1984 again. Marcus Lattimore went down with an injury after the seventh game of the season, however he still ran for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Brandon Wilds and Connor Shaw carried the load after he left, with Kenny Miles adding some fire during certain games. Stephen Garcia also scored six times before he got removed from the team.
With all due respect to Marcus Lattimore's 2010 campaign, I feel as though 1984 and 2011 were better team running years, with 1984 getting the edge.
1984 was not a pass-catcher-friendly year, but a few guys scored some touchdowns. Ira Hillary and Chris Wade stood out as scoring threats, but there was very little production due to the nature of the offense.
2010 was a different story, as Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley created a formidable one-two punch. Alshon Jeffery had the best single-season receiving year in Gamecock history, and Tory Gurley, Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders all had productive years.
2011 was again like 1984. Due to the nature of the offense, the receiving numbers dropped. Alshon Jeffery, Ace Sanders and Bruce Ellington all had nice years though, and Alshon's seven touchdowns still tied him for fourth in the SEC.
2010 wins this one by a long shot.
In 1984, South Carolina had a solid defense. It was a fast-moving group with solid players such as Brad Edwards and Ricky Daniels. However, they weren't nationally ranked that highly (24th) and they were in a great deal of shootouts.
2010's defense was abysmal—especially in the pass defense category. They ranked 52nd in total defense, and their pass defense finished in the bottom 10 in the country.
2011 is a different story. Currently, they are ranked fourth in the nation, and have won a couple of games for the team. This may be the greatest defense the program has ever seen.
No contest here.
In 1984 South Carolina beat some of the biggest names in college football: Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Florida State and Clemson. Some of those programs were down, but not by much. However, in 1984, the Gamecocks suffered the worst defeat in the program's history.
They were ranked No. 2 and in line for an easy walk to a national championship, and they lost to Navy. A bad Navy team, no less.
In 2010, South Carolina had an embarrassing loss in the SEC Championship game and an embarrassing Kentucky meltdown. However, they had possibly the biggest win in program history with a 35-21 win over No. 1-ranked Alabama, and a huge win over Florida in the Swamp to win the East.
2011 has sort of been a taking-care-of-business year. They had a big win against Georgia, but they really were expected to win all of their other games, except for Arkansas, which they lost. However, a one-man self-destruct show (Stephen Garcia) handed away the Auburn game, which cost the team the SEC East.
This one is difficult, because 1984 and 2011 have the better records, but nothing in those two seasons can compare to winning the East and beating Alabama in 2010.
3. 1984 (That Navy loss alone puts them here.)
1984 was all about the late Joe Morrison. He won the 1984 National Coach of the Year award and basically did it walking away. He knew he had a talented team, and created an offensive scheme geared towards the offensive strengths.
2010 and 2011 were both Steve Spurrier years. However, 2011 really showed everyone why Spurrier is indeed a master coach. He coached the team through issues that would destroy other programs, such as losing their top quarterback and running back. He adjusted the offensive game plan to show off Connor Shaw's strengths, and built the program up. The 2011 team also had heart and grit, something that has been missing through the years.
The verdict is in.
1984 ranked 2, 1, 3, 2, 3 and 2 in my categories for a 2.1 average.
2010 ranked 1, 3, 1, 3, 1 and 3 in those same categories for a 2 average.
2011 comes in at 3, 2, 2, 1, 2 and 1 for a 1.8 average.
In my opinion, 2011 is the best season in South Carolina history. You may be surprised to see I have 2010 as second, and not 1984. I think that the 2009 team could have been the greatest if it wasn't for a superhero quarterback who shall remain in Panther Blue and nameless.
1984 was a great team, but they fell apart at the end, lost the bowl and have nothing to show for that great season. 2010 has a championship, and set the stage for the awesome 2011 season we are now enjoying.
There is a catch, however.
If South Carolina lays an egg in the bowl game and falls to 10-3, for me, they will fall to third. If they win their bowl game and go 11-2, there will be no more debate. 2011 would be the best Gamecock season ever.
No matter what, these are three great Gamecock teams and the future is truly bright.
It's great to be a Gamecock!
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