2014 South Carolina Gamecocks Odds to Win the SEC with Picks & Predictions
by Aaron Smith - 7/31/2014
The South Carolina Gamecocks finished fourth in the AP Poll last year. That was the school's highest-ever finish in that poll. Steve Spurrier is entering his 10th year at the helm at South Carolina. It might have taken a little while for them to become national title contenders, but it certainly isn't far-fetched for them to win it all at this point.
The Gamecocks lost some extremely important pieces after last season. This year will be a good test for them. Is this program at a point where it can simply reload, or will they need to go through a rebuilding phase? Spurrier has done a great job recruiting, so it's hard to see them dropping too badly, but by losing the type of players they did there is bound to be some fall off in 2014.
While everyone knows Jadeveon Clowney is gone and that will hurt badly, he is far from the only one. Connor Shaw was a great leader at the quarterback spot, and he'll be missed. Don't forget about defensive linemen Kelcy Quarles and Chaz Sutton, who teamed up with Clowney to form one of the best defensive lines in the country. Without these players, it's up to some of the new guys to step up right away. There isn't time for rebuilding in the SEC.
2014 South Carolina Offense
Without Shaw in a Gamecocks uniform, it will be all be up to Dylan Thompson at quarterback. Thompson knows the system extremely well, and he should be fine. I think Thompson is just as good throwing the football as Shaw was, but he doesn't have the same scrambling ability. More importantly, I'm not convinced that Thompson is the same gritty leader who comes up with big plays when they are needed most. This isn't to say that Thompson will do a bad job, but the Gamecocks will miss Shaw's leadership. South Carolina lost some talented receivers, too. The Gamecocks brought in a huge talent in Shaq Davidson. Expect him to make a name for himself very soon.
The strength of the South Carolina offense will be the offensive line. Last year's group was very good, and the team returns nine of their top 10 offensive linemen. The smallest guy on the line weighs 305 pounds. This is a group that is going to push a bunch of people around this year. It's the best offensive front in the SEC East. Mike Davis will be running behind this offensive line, and as long as he can stay healthy he'll put up mammoth numbers. Davis ran for 1,183 yards and 5.8 yards per carry last year. I see Davis as one of the top five running backs in the nation. Also, Brandon Wilds is a very good backup, so South Carolina is in good shape in the backfield.
The Gamecocks offense will be in very good shape as long as they can throw it consistently to keep opposing defenses honest.
2014 South Carolina Defense
Last year's South Carolina defensive line was probably the most talented in the SEC. Now, the Gamecocks have, at least on paper, one of the worst defensive lines in the conference. South Carolina lost their three best defensive linemen, and they'll be starting a couple guys this year that have very little game experience. The defensive front is a definite concern for the Gamecocks. Linebacker was the biggest question mark on the Gamecocks defense last year, and it is now the biggest strength. They were really inexperienced last year, but they did a great job holding their own. Those youngsters will now become the veterans of the team. There aren't really any superstars in this unit, but there are a lot of guys with quick feet and plenty of strength.
The secondary loses cornerbacks Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton. Rico McWilliams and Jamari Smith will start at the corner spots this year, and the jury is out on how they will perform. Brison Williams is the only veteran in the secondary this year. There aren't as many good quarterbacks in the SEC as normal, but this secondary is still going to get tested.
As a whole, the Gamecocks defense worries me a bit this season. They'll definitely take a step back. But how much of a step back will it be?
2014 South Carolina Odds to Win SEC
The oddsmakers are still showing plenty of respect to the Gamecocks despite their losses from last year. Bovada lists South Carolina at 5/1 to win the SEC in 2014. The Gamecocks are listed at 8/5 to win the SEC East. What about the national title race? South Carolina is listed at 33/1 there. The Gamecocks season win total has been set at 9.5 wins .
2014 South Carolina Gamecocks Picks & Predictions
I like the job that Spurrier has done here, but I'm lower on the Gamecocks than most people are heading into this season. I'm not convinced they can absorb the kind of losses they took and still put together another great year. One thing that will save them from falling too far is the fact that they have a relatively easy schedule. Their key games will be home against Georgia and at Florida. I don't see any value in South Carolina to win the SEC or even the SEC East. Look for them to finish with eight or nine regular-season wins.
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Read more articles by Aaron Smith
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