Marcus Lattimore Danny Trevathan

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 11 South Carolina

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2011 record: 11-2 overall, 6-2 in SEC (2nd in East)

2011 postseason: Capital One Bowl (30-13 win over Nebraska)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 9/No. 8

Head coach: Steve Spurrier (197-75-2 overall, 55-35 in seven seasons at South Carolina)

Offensive coordinator: Spurrier

2011 offensive rankings: 25th rushing offense (192.1 ypg); 95th passing offense (181.5 ypg); 74th total offense (373.5 ypg); 42nd scoring offense (30.1 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: seven

Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward (fifth season at South Carolina, fourth as DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 45th rushing defense (136 ypg); 2nd passing defense (131.7 ypg); 3rd total defense (267.7 ypg); 11th scoring defense (18.4 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Columbia, S.C.

Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (80,250; grass)

Last league title: 1969 (ACC)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
The Ol’ Ball Coach is back to being his “chatty” self, a sure sign that he’s very confident in the talent level of the eighth edition of his Gamecocks.  And, coming off an 11-win season with 13 starters on both sides of the ball back, Spurrier should feel confident.  South Carolina will also get what figures to be its prime SEC East competition, Georgia, at home as well as Arkansas, new SEC member Missouri and what should be a much-improved Tennessee squad.

The Bad
The whole of the schedule. Three of what will arguably be South Carolina’s four stiffest tests in 2012 will come away from the friendly confines of Columbia — LSU and Florida back-to-back in mid-October, and then the regular-season finale at Clemson.  The Gamecocks also open the season at Vanderbilt, which some are viewing as a trap game given the Commodores’ improvement under James Franklin.

The Unknown
Über-talented running back Marcus Lattimore is coming off a devastating ACL injury that cost him the last six games of his sophomore season.  Nearly 11 months removed from that injury, Lattimore is 100-percent healthy heading into summer camp.  The real test, though, will come once the regular season commences and that surgically-repaired knee is tested by the stout defenses that litter the SEC. A healthy Lattimore portends good things for the ‘Cocks; any type of setbacks, however, and quarterback Connor Shaw, in his first year as the full-time starter, could be forced to pick up the offensive slack.

Make-or-break game: vs. Georgia, Oct. 6
Sorry Gators, but the early-October matchup between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs will be widely viewed as the SEC East title game.  While the Gamecocks actually came out of the 2011 edition of this matchup with a three-point win, Georgia ripped off seven consecutive conference wins as South Carolina stubbed its collective toes against Auburn and Arkansas to hand the division to the Bulldogs.  This year, Georgia will be forced to travel to Columbia for what once again could/should be the game that decides the East’s sacrificial lamb representative in the SEC title game.

Heisman hopeful: running back Marcus Lattimore
The ACL injury previously addressed notwithstanding, Lattimore is primed for a junior season that should include plenty of Heisman hype.  In 20 career games, Lattimore has rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 27 touchdowns on the ground.  Lattimore will once again be expected to play the workhorse role, although Spurrier would be wise to ease the junior back into the role he’s held the past two seasons, especially early on in the season.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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Nick Saban’s dad ‘would’ve kicked me out of the house’ if he quit team

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 17:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide questions two flags on the field after a punt return touchdown against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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In Nick Saban‘s official response to quarterback Blake Barnett‘s abrupt departure from Alabama, the head coach described the program as “disappointed” in the impending transfer.

Unofficially? The Nicktator appears to be somewhat agitated by not only the move itself but the overall transfer climate in the sport.

Shortly after releasing the statement on Barnett, Saban appeared on his weekly radio show. While the quarterback’s name wasn’t specifically mentioned, it wasn’t hard to crack the code Saban was using in dropping pearls of wisdom from the lessons his West Virginia-born father had taught him.

From al.com‘s transcription of the interview:

It’s one of those things where I think the culture has changed a little bit,” Saban said. “I think there’s a certain pride people have in competition. There’s certain things that I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think if I would have come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he would have kicked me out of the house. I don’t think I’d have a place to stay.

“My dad used to always say ‘The grass is always greener on top of the septic tank,'” Saban said. “So it always looks better someplace else. So you think, instead of facing your fears and really overcoming adversity and making yourself better through the competition, you go someplace else thinking it will be better there. But until you face your fears, you’re always going to have some of those issues or problems.

Exactly what Saban’s father would’ve thought of his son leaving the Miami Dolphins after just two years and his first losing season as a head coach to make the move to Alabama is unknown.

No determination yet for ‘appropriate discipline’ of arrested ‘Bama LB

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15: The flag girls of the Alabama Crimson Tide marching band perform before the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2008 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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An off-field incident involving one of his Alabama football players has drawn a public response from Nick Saban.

Very early Thursday morning, Tim Williams was arrested university police officers and charged with carrying a pistol without a permit. Williams and another unidentified male were sitting in the linebackers’ vehicle in a Publix parking lot when an officer who approached the vehicle smelled marijuana. A search revealed said marijuana, which the other man, who was seated in the driver’s seat, claimed; a gun was also found, which Williams claimed.

However, Williams could not produce a permit, leading to the misdemeanor charge.

In a statement, Saban said that “[t]his kind of behavior is not condoned in our program.” That said, the head coach was not ready to say one way or the other what if any punitive measures the senior may face.

“This kind of behavior is not condoned in our program,” the coach’s statement began. “We are currently in the process of reviewing all of the information. Once we have a complete understanding of the situation, we will determine what we need to do in terms of the appropriate discipline.”

Entering the 2016 season, Williams was viewed by many as a potential, or even likely, first-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft. He has just 1.5 sacks in four games this season after totaling 10.5 in 15 games in 2015.

Josh Sweat should be good to go for FSU vs. UNC

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 24: Josh Sweat #9 of the Florida State Seminoles runs with a first half interception against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 24, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Derwin James is still at least a couple of weeks or so away from returning from his injury, but Florida State will likely get a talented defensive player back on the field this weekend anyway.

When asked Thursday if defensive end Josh Sweat will be available for the North Carolina game this weekend, Jimbo Fisher responded, “oh yeah.” Sweat sustained a meniscus injury in practice leading up to the Louisville game in Week 3 and, after it limited him in that contest, underwent surgery to repair the damage shortly thereafter.

At the time, the prognosis for a return was 1-2 weeks. Sweat missed the win over USF last weekend, but could see the field this weekend as he’s practiced the past couple of days.

“Healing really well, looks great” Fisher said in quotes distributed by the team. “We’ll see [Friday] morning, but [the knee] looks great.”

Sweat started nine of 13 games as a true freshman last season, and started the first two games in 2016 before the knee issue surfaced.

Greg Ward Jr., to Heisman voters: ‘Psssttt, I’m still here, don’t forget’

Houston quarterback Greg Ward Jr. (1) runs past Connecticut defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi, left, en route to a 30-yard touchdown in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
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Deservedly so, most of the Heisman focus these first four-plus weeks of the 2016 season has been squarely on Lamar Jackson and the stunningly phenomenal season the Louisville quarterback is putting together. There are others, though, who merit mention.

Case in point? Greg Ward Jr.

In No. 6 Houston’s Thursday night 42-14 romp over UConn, the quarterback completed just over 84 percent of his passes for 389 yards and three touchdowns, and ran for 65 yards and two scores for good measure. The win was the Cougars’ eighth in a row, with the last loss coming Nov. 21 of last year to… these very same Huskies.

On at least one occasion in avenging the loss, though, Ward Jr.’s sterling completion percentage got a little help from one of his receiving friends.

The latest virtuoso performance, which included his third 300-yard passing game of the season, pushed Ward Jr. to 1,503 yards of offense (1,325 passing, 178 rushing) and 13 total touchdowns (eight passing, five rushing) in four games while also battling a lingering shoulder issue. For comparison’s sake, and you know we’re not alone in doing so, Jackson will enter Week 5 with a statistical ledger that’s straight from a teenager’s video game: 1,856 yards of total offense and a ridiculous 25 total touchdowns in his four games.

While it’s still quite a ways down the road, Ward’s Cougars and Jackson’s Cardinals will square off in what’s shaping up to be a monumental mid-November Thursday night game that could go a long way in determining not only the Heisman race, but helping to shape the playoff picture as well.  In between, voters, don’t forget about the kid from Houston.