Time for some questions about South Carolina football to be answered. Our blogging pal over at Saturday Edge asked us to weigh in on four questions regarding the 2012 USC football schedule and team. Here is our opinions....
1. What are South Carolina’s main strengths this season?
The Gamecocks are fairly balanced across the board in 2012. The strength on the offensive side of the ball will be the rushing attack. USC football welcomes the return of Heisman candidate running back and team leader Marcus Lattimore. Despite playing just seven games, he led the team with 818 yards rushing (116.9 per game) and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. Don’t expect him to be quite the workhorse he was in 2011 as the Gamecocks have the luxury of having a stable at running back. USC will utilize senior Kenny Miles, sophomore Brandon Wilds (three 100-yard games in 2011) redshirt freshman Shon Carson will see action as will former four-star running back Mike Davis. These running backs should have a quality line to run behind and through.
On defense, the strength lies within the defensive line. Led by senior Devin Taylor and phenom Jadeveon Clowney, expect to see this group disturb the opposing offense.
2. What are their main weaknesses.
On offense, the weakness could be pegged in the wide receiving corps after losing Alshon Jeffery to the NFL Draft. On paper, the Gamecocks do not have the numbers that will jump out at you not knowing the team. In saying that, rest assured that passing targets like Ace Sanders, Damiere Byrd or true freshman Shaq Roland will step up and help quarterback Connor Shaw get the job done.
On defense, the weakness is depth in the secondary. Once you get past the first line, the second or third options are bleak. This group has to step up if USC is going to make a serious run at a BCS bid.
-more after the jump-
3. Give me a quick schedule analysis. Who will they beat, who will they lose to and what games could go either way?
Likely Wins: Vanderbilt, East Carolina, UAB, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Wofford, Clemson
South Carolina may be challenged by some of these teams but should prevail.
Likely Losses: None
There isn't a game on the schedule Carolina can't win if they are
playing their best football.
Toss Ups: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, LSU
USC can certainly hang with everyone on their schedule but these four games present unique challenges. LSU in Baton Rouge will be the biggest game of the year for Spurrier as it could determine a BCS bid. UF and UGa will determine the SEC East winner. And Arkansas is the thorn in the side of the Gamecocks. For some reason, they compete tough when facing the Gamecocks.
Wins: Vandy, UAB, ECU, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Wofford, Clemson
Losses: LSU and a loss to one of these three – Arkansas, Georgia or Florida
4. Any other thoughts about South that might be informative for the article.
Much will be said about Marcus Lattimore but the season rests on the arm and abilities of quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw took over as the starter in the middle of last season and showed major potential as the Gamecocks signal caller. In nine starts, he threw for 1,448 yards and 14 touchdowns while also running for 525 yards and eight scores. South Carolina won eight of those nine starts.
In 2012, the opposing defenses will load the box to stop the run. Shaw must step up and connect with the passing targets if they are going to get past some of the big names on the schedule.