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Column: Why I doubted South Carolina and will do it again

If there is one thing I have come to expect from South Carolina it is that they will always find a way to fall short of expectations. Despite entering a couple seasons recently with some relative high praise the Gamecocks have failed to take their game to the next level. South Carolina has not won ten games since 1984 and that is the only time in program history, dating back to 1903, that the football team had won that many games. Am I really supposed to believe that this year may be different?

Since Steve Spurrier took over on the sidelines in 2005 South Carolina has taken some time to find success like they are currently enjoying. Playing in the SEC of course made it extremely difficult for the Gamecocks to compete with some great teams in recent seasons. Alabama, Florida, and LSU have been among the bets in the nation in Spurrier’s latest venture in to the SEC. The highest ranking South Carolina has achieved was sixth in late October of 2007. It was at that time that the schedule was starting to play in South Carolina’s favorite with a road game at Tennessee looking like the most troubling test left on the schedule. South Carolina would get Florida and Clemson at home to finish up the regular season.

Rather than make a push for the BCS Championship (LSU would rally back for that distinction) South Carolina ended the regular season on a five game losing streak, starting with a loss to Vanderbilt. This year’s team is being given a chance to prove themselves to all of the doubters after taking down top-ranked Alabama over the weekend. Of course the Gamecocks are receiving high praise once again, so why am I so pessimistic about Spurrier’s program turning the corner this season?

South Carolina has four road games remaining on their schedule: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson. Arkansas also sits on the home schedule, in addition to Tennessee and Sun Belt front-runner Troy. I wonder if the Gamecocks can handle the pressure of being the favorite on a weekly schedule, which it appears they could be. One thing to watch will be whether or not true freshman running back Marcus Lattimore will continue his impressive display on the ground.

The prized recruit from South Carolina decided to stay close to home rather than commit elsewhere and it may be the most important factor in the success of the Gamecocks this season. After rushing for 93 yards, two touchdowns and catching one more against Alabama Lattimore has showed why he is so special. In his second game of his collegiate career Lattimore rushed for 182 yards against Georgia and it should be expected that he start to become more of a go-to player on offense. But how will he hold up through the rest of the season against SEC opposition keying in on him?

And more importantly, how much will Spurrier trust him? Not that Spurrier is asking for my advice, but I would hitch your wagon to Lattimore and see what happens.

Alabama still team to beat

Despite losing to South Carolina on Saturday it still looks like the Crimson Tide will be the team to beat. The offense will not see their vaunted running game held to under 40 yards too often and the passing game remains one of the more reliable ones in the country. Alabama has already defeated Florida and Arkansas this season and all eyes could be on the regular season finale against rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

Before anybody talks about Auburn though keep a close eye on LSU, who continues to find bizarre ways to win tight games. The Bayou Tigers stunned Florida with a fake field goal that led to a game-winning touchdown in the closing moments. Can LSU pose a threat to Alabama’s SEC West plans before Auburn gets a crack? LSU will get Alabama at home and at this point who knows?

Fool Saban once, shame on him…

It is interesting to note that only one coach has defeated Alabama’s Nick Saban in consecutive seasons since Saban has coached in the SEC, first with LSU and now with the Tide. That coach of course is Spurrier, who defeated Saban twice while coaching Florida and Saban coached LSU. Spurrier beat Saban in 2000 and 2001 before Spurrier made the leap to the NFL’s Washington Redskins. Now both coaches are back in the SEC after each saw their NFL plans go sour.

If Alabama and South Carolina are destined to meet again this season in the SEC Championship game, count on Saban learning from his mistakes and getting some revenge.

The only other coaches to defeat Saban in consecutive meetings in his coaching career are Tom Osborne (Nebraska), Lloyd Carr (Michigan), Joe Tiller (Purdue), Hayden Fry (Iowa) and Joe Paterno (Penn State). All of those coaches defeated Saban during his Michigan State tenure.

About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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