2010 record: 9-5, 5-3 (1st SEC East)
2010 bowl: 26-17 loss to Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: 22nd/22nd
Coach: Steve Spurrier, seventh year; 44-33 overall, 23-25 conference
Offensive coordinator: Spurrier
2010 offensive rankings: 38th, scoring offense (30.0 ppg); 47th, total offense (392.8 ppg); 60th, rushing offense (154.4 ypg); 44th, passing offense (238.4 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Lorenzo Ward, third year
2010 defensive rankings:43rd, scoring defense (23.1 ppg); 46th, total defense (354.4 ypg); 12th, rushing defense (112.4); 97th, passing defense (241.9)
Returning offensive starters: 7
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Stadium: Williams-Brice Stadium (Grass; 80,250)
Last league title: 1969
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Steve Spurrier has been more talkative, more vocal, more, well, more Steve Spurrier this offseason than the Ol’ Ball Coach has ever been during his time with the Gamecocks, which speaks loudly as to what he thinks of the 2011 edition of his team and what he thinks they have the ability — and talent — to accomplish. As far as the East division of the SEC is concerned Spurrier should feel supremely confident, what with the combination of the Gamecocks’ talent level combined with another “down” year for the rest of the division — Georgia may surprise, though — portending a second consecutive divisional crown for South Carolina.
What remains to be seen, though, is if the Gamecocks are ready to challenge the Alabamas and LSUs of the SEC. Fortunately for the Gamecocks, they won’t have to face either of those two during the regular season. Unfortunately, they’ll likely have to face one of the two if they hope for the SEC title breakthrough that eluded them last year.
Make no mistake, the pieces, at least on paper, appear to be in place. The running game is in the more-than-capable legs of sophomore Marcus Lattimore and a better-than-average defense — tighten up that pass defense, though — will return seven starters plus add the talents of the nation’s consensus top recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Arguably the biggest question mark for the Gamecocks entering 2011 centers on the most important position on the field. Stephen Garcia had a breakthrough season in 2010, but has been awash in controversy throughout the offseason, suspended indefinitely at one point following an alcohol-fueled incident and not reinstated until the eve of summer camp.
If Garcia keeps the off-field distractions off the playing field — and avoids any additional “situations” — the position will be in experienced and capable hands. If not? Well, let’s just say that’s something Spurrier doesn’t want to think about at this point in time, even as he publicly expresses confidence in backup Connor Shaw.
Make-or-break game: Sept. 10 at Georgia
Yes, it’s just the second game of the season, but if the ‘Cocks want to win an SEC title and advance to a BcS game, they’ll have to win their division first. And this year — no offense, Florida and Tennessee; next year, ye shall rise again — the lone threat to their second consecutive East title appears to be the Bulldogs. The Gamecocks would have a talent advantage, but will it be enough to negate the home-field/talent combination Georgia will carry into the game? I would think so, but this will be one of those eagerly anticipated early-season matchups rife with intrigue and potential ramifications for the remainder of the season for both programs.
Heisman hopeful: Lattimore
As a true freshman last year, Lattimore rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 17 rushing touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the top running backs in the country. There’s nothing to suggest his production will dip in 2011; in fact, he’ll likely see a substantial increase on the 249 carries he totaled last season. Such a bump in opportunities should equal increased production, which should place firmly entrench Lattimore in the Heisman discussion for the entire season.
Postseason projection: Outback Bowl