Season Report Card: South Carolina Gamecocks
That may have some people scratching their heads, but it's true.
Let us rewind to a mid-October meeting with the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville. South Carolina entered the game ranked 11th in the country, and seemed like a heavy favorite to extend its four-game winning streak. But, a Michael Palardy field goal as time expired ended that possibility, giving the Vols a 23-21 upset victory.
Now, how did that affect the Gamecocks' chances of playing in Pasadena? If we play the "what if?" game, had South Carolina won that game and everything else held true to form, it would have finished 11-1 and played for the SEC championship. Beating Auburn would have put Steve Spurrier's team into the title game.
All hypothetical situations aside though, let's grade the Gamecocks on their outstanding season:
South Carolina found a nice balance on offense this season with the duo of quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Mike Davis running the show. Shaw threw 24 touchdowns and only 1 interception on the year, with his most memorable performance coming in a game where he led the Gamecocks from 17 points down in the fourth quarter to beat eventual SEC East champion Missouri. Oh, and he had a bum knee while doing it. In my opinion, Shaw will go down as one of the most underrated players in SEC history.
The Gamecock defense finished in the Top 20 nationally in total defense, and managed to stymie opposing offenses. This defense held high-powered offenses like UCF, Missouri, and Clemson to 25 points or lower, which was a major accomplishment considering the success those offenses had this season. And while there were plenty of negatives surrounding Jadeveon Clowney, the fact remains that he changed the way opposing coaches approached this defense.
At this point, there's no reason to doubt The Ol' Ball Coach. Year after year, Spurrier has had this team in the mix to compete for SEC titles. This was one of the best teams that he's had during his tenure in Columbia, and again, if not for the slip up in Knoxville (which Spurrier drew criticism for after a few questionable timeout decisions), they would have been SEC East champions.
South Carolina was one of the best teams in the country this season, and on any given day, could have beaten anyone in the nation. They'll look back and wonder what might have been had the outcome been different against Tennessee, but still, it was a season of major success.
What are your thoughts on the current state of South Carolina football? Let us know by commenting below! For more college football talk, follow @FanIQ or myself on Twitter!