It's the holiday season around Columbia, S.C., and the Gamecocks are hoping to be spoiled this year with gifts galore.
The 2011 season has been one the Gamecocks will talk about for years to come, but the potential for this to be the greatest season ever still sits out there for South Carolina.
USC has had to deal with coaching vacancies already this offseason, and there is always the flirtation of players leaving early for the NFL. The Gamecocks could lose a key veteran this offseason, and they have a key senior leader they hope will be granted another year of eligibility.
There are plenty of things to wish for this holiday season, and this is a list of 10 things the Gamecocks hope to find under the tree this year.
The first gift the Gamecocks hope to find under the tree is a gift that would come after the New Year.
South Carolina is hoping it can contain the powerful running attack of the Nebraska Cornhuskers and come away with a victory in the Capital One Bowl.
This is a chance for the Gamecocks to win their 11th game this season, which would be a first for the football program. It's a very important game for both teams, but it could mean a whole lot more for South Carolina if they find a way to win.
The Gamecocks will need a strong performance from Connor Shaw and the USC running game, along with another stellar defensive performance to give them a chance.
This feels like a different team than in recent years when it comes to bowl game performance, and I think the Gamecocks will have a strong performance against Nebraska on Jan. 2.
South Carolina now has two coaching vacancies this offseason and had the flirtation of another that never materialized.
The Gamecocks hope present No. 2 under the tree is that they get to keep the rest of their staff intact.
Jay Graham and Ellis Johnson have both parted ways with South Carolina as they moved onto Tennessee and Southern Mississippi, respectively. Coaches Steve Spurrier Jr. and Shawn Elliott were involved in early talks for the Coastal Carolina head coaching vacancy before withdrawing their names.
Steve Spurrier had built a great staff at South Carolina in recent years, and losing these two talented coaches will definitely hurt.
Let's hope that this is the end of the coaching vacancies at South Carolina.
South Carolina's starting left tackle for the 2011 season suffered a back injury that sidelined him for most of the year.
It would be a great gift to the Gamecocks if Kyle Nunn is awarded another year of eligibility.
Nunn would add a big veteran presence on this offensive line in 2012 and a talented one at that. Losing Nunn this season for the Gamecocks was a big blow for the offensive line, and it took several games to find a combination capable of working for South Carolina.
Nunn would be a big boost for next year's offensive line, which should be much improved in 2012. Just imagine how much better the Gamecocks' offensive line could be with him on the team again.
This Christmas present would probably have the most value for the Gamecocks if they were to find it under the tree.
Christmas present No. 4 would be the return of Alshon Jeffery to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Jeffery has come into South Carolina and rewritten the record books for a wide receiver. He broke out onto the scene as a freshman against Kentucky and hasn't looked back.
2011 was a down year for this talented wide receiver, but this offense should be better in 2012 with more experience under their belt.
If they were to keep Jeffery, then expect South Carolina fans to go crazy on Christmas morning. This may be a present that is more of the "wishful thinking" variety, though. Everyone expects Jeffery to enter the NFL draft in 2012.
This would be a Christmas gift that would keep on giving throughout 2012. I think South Carolina would be OK with that.
I mentioned earlier about South Carolina hoping for a present under the tree that keeps the remaining coaches intact.
This present for South Carolina would be two dynamic replacements for Ellis Johnson and Jay Graham.
South Carolina is a program on the rise, and there should be plenty of interest in replacing these two vacancies. The allure of working with all of this talent on defense would be enough for a defensive coordinator to make the jump for South Carolina.
The same thing could be said about the running backs position that was vacated when Jay Graham left for Tennessee. You'd have a chance to coach Marcus Lattimore, Brandon Wilds and Shon Carson. Those three players alone could make a coach look very good.
Losing Johnson and Graham was tough for South Carolina, but expect them to keep on rolling when they hire two new coaches to replace these guys. I've got a feeling that Steve Spurrier will be able to convince two great coaches to come work for him down in Columbia.
South Carolina may lose a veteran running back this offseason, but it sure would be a nice present under the tree if he comes back.
Kenny Miles recently graduated and has entertained the thought of transferring from South Carolina. Miles has been somewhat of an unsung hero for South Carolina the last few years and has stepped up when the Gamecocks needed him to do so.
You can certainly understand his thinking when guys like Marcus Lattimore, Shon Carson and Brandon Wilds all return in 2012, limiting the playing time of a player like Miles.
However, you can't account for injuries like those that hit South Carolina at the running back position in 2011.
Miles has been a great team player since enrolling at South Carolina in 2009, and it would certainly be nice to see him in the garnet and black in 2012.
Top 10 finishes for South Carolina are something as scarce as double-digit wins in the football program.
The Gamecocks are in prime position to finish in the Top 10 with a win in the Capital One Bowl. Right now, South Carolina sits at No. 9 in the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 10 in the AP Poll. South Carolina is also No. 9 in the BCS standings.
A finish in the Top 10 would put South Carolina in good standing for the 2012 season.
It's all about how you finish, and if the Gamecocks finish strong and end up in the Top 10, then this season has to be considered a success.
Recruiting is a big part of South Carolina's success the last few years, and a great present for the Gamecocks would be a strong finish in recruiting for the 2012 class.
The Gamecocks find themselves ranked in the top 15 in several recruiting services' team rankings, and they are in prime position to finish strong for 2012.
Several recruits such as Elijah Shumate, Chaz Elder, Jordan Diggs, Mike Davis and a few others all have the Gamecocks in mind when it comes to making a decision on where to attend college.
If South Carolina is able to land these recruits then expect them to be ranked in the top 25 recruiting rankings or even higher than the top 15 ranking they have now.
The return of Alshon Jeffery may have been his own present under the tree this year, but there are other Gamecocks who could potentially leave for the NFL draft in 2012.
Devin Taylor, Stephon Gilmore, D.J. Swearinger and DeVonte Holloman are all players who could have potential interest in going to the NFL early.
South Carolina has reportedly received good news on Taylor and Holloman, as both are expected back in 2012. Swearinger will most likely return too, but the only wild card here is Gilmore.
It's entirely possible that Gilmore goes to the NFL next year, or he could return to the Gamecocks for his senior year. Either scenario could play out for South Carolina.
If all these players come back for South Carolina, then talk about a present for the Gamecocks. The most likely scenario, though, is to lose at least one of these talented players.
Three out of four is better than zero out of four, though.
The final Christmas present for the Gamecocks this year would be to wake up and find a brand-new video board all ready to go for the 2012 season.
South Carolina will upgrade its video board for the 2012 season, but the project isn't expected to be completed until some time during the next season. The hope is it will be ready for the home-opener against East Carolina, but the project was pushed up from 2013 to 2012, so it will be an accelerated process.
The current video is extremely small compared to other SEC stadiums. It's been time to upgrade the video board for a few years now, but it would be wonderful if this present was ready by the start of the 2012 season.