Rant Sports College Football Top 100: No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks

Rant Sports 100 Teams in 100 Days: No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It is pretty safe to say that Steve Spurrier knows he has something special with his 2013 South Carolina Gamecocks. The Old Ball Coach only really rants and raves when he knows that his plan is perfect, and he has the depth and talent to execute everything he wants. And if you go and pull all of Spurrier’s sound bytes, you can clearly see he has high expectations for 2013.

And why shouldn’t he? South Carolina has an impact player at just about every position and a schedule that is very manageable, even in the SEC. And that is just a few reasons why Spurrier and his Gamecocks come in at No. 9 in Rant Sports’ Top 100 Teams in 100 Days.

Key Players

There is no one more important to the Gamecocks than Heisman Trophy watch candidate Jadeveon Clowney. He will be the main focus of every team South Carolina faces, which will allows the rest of this very talented defense to shine. That is, if Clowney can stay healthy and live up to his mythical powers.

Offensively, the Gamecocks’ hope will rest in the brains of quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Both Shaw and Thompson will play a major role in the offensive game plan, and both are capable of being the sole starter at pretty much any team in college football.

Offense

Besides the tremendous leadership and talent of Shaw and Thompson, South Carolina is loaded at all the other skill positions.

Replacing Marcus Lattimore at running back will be sophomores Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds. Davis and Wilds did a great job filling in after the injury to Lattimore last season as they still managed to average around 138 yards per game in 2012. Freshman David Williams might be the most talented of the bunch and will factor into Spurrier’s game plan.

South Carolina has some great athletes on the outside as well, led by junior wide receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd. K.J. Brent, Shaq Roland and Shamier Jeffery will also see factor into the success of the Gamecocks.

Defense

This is not a one-man show in Clowney for the Gamecocks’ defense. In fact, it is far from it. Chaz Sutton is every bit as talented opposite Clowney at the other defensive end position, and the South Carolina secondary might be one of the best group of starters with Jimmy Legree, Victor Hampton and Brison Williams. Sutton had 25 tackles in 2012, while Legree led the team last season in interceptions with three.

The key to South Carolina’s defense will be the linebackers. Cedrick Cooper, Kaiwan Lewis and Sharrod Golightly will have to be major impacts if the Gamecocks plan on winning the SEC and playing for the BCS.

Schedule

You know Spurrier likes his chances when it’s a week before the season kicks off and you haven’t heard him complain once about how easy one of his fellow SEC brothers has it compared to his Gamecocks.

It’s not like South Carolina has a cake walk, but they definitely have things they way they want them. That is, if the Gamecocks can get past the first two weeks of 2013 as they host the North Carolina Tar Heels to open the season next Thursday night, and then travel to tackle the Georgia Bulldogs the week after.

If South Carolina can get through those two games, they are in the driver’s seat for sure, as their remaining road games are at the Central Florida Golden Knights, Arkansas Razorbacks, Tennessee Volunteers and Missouri Tigers.

After October 26, South Carolina will only leave Columbia for Atlanta, Pasadena or a Bowl Game. They host the Florida Gators on November 16 to decide the SEC East, and welcome the Clemson Tigers on November 30 to decide the BCS.

This is a team that should go 10-2 easy, and has a chance to be 14-0 for the first time in its history.

M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Follow him @woodysmalls.

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