South Carolina Football: Is the Gamecock's SEC Championship Window Closing?

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IJanuary 24, 2013

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01:  Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks rushes up field during a 33 - 28  victory against the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl January 1, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

2013 is a big year for the South Carolina football program.  The team has been on an unparalleled high since 2010.  An SEC East title and then two back-to-back 11-win seasons give the Gamecocks a great deal to be happy about. 

However, there is one major goal the Gamecocks haven't really sniffed: an SEC Championship. 

We will leave the national title talk out of this. The goal is and has always been an SEC title. 

The Gamecocks have been loaded with superstars and have been recruiting big-name athletes for the last few years. 

But is the SEC title window closing on the Gamecocks?

Jadeveon Clowney is the last of the remaining "superstars" that led the Gamecocks for the last few years. Marcus Lattimore is gone. Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore have been gone. Shaq Roland hasn't proven himself yet. The Gamecocks didn't get the "big-name fish" in this year's recruiting class. 

Don't get me wrong, the team has an excellent recruiting class this year. It is currently ranked 16th in the country, according to Rivals. It's full of solid players. 

One of the reasons that the Gamecocks have been so solid during the season is its domination over Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina holds an 8-1 record over these three traditional powers over the last three seasons. 

Can the Gamecocks continue this streak? At least for now, the team has the talent to continue to beat these teams. 

For once, the Gamecocks also have a favorable schedule. They play Georgia September 7. This favors the Gamecocks, as the young Georgia defense won't have much time to prepare for an offense that is led by two great quarterbacks and a stable of good receivers and runners.

The toughest SEC games against Vanderbilt and Florida are at home. There is no LSU, no Alabama, no Texas A&M. 

They get Mississippi State and Arkansas. Both are teams that South Carolina can handle. 

This year is the best chance the team has ever had to win the SEC. It can make its way to the SEC championship Game, given the schedule and talent. 

Losing Clowney at the end of the season will hurt, but it won't shut the SEC championship window.  The window will remain open as long as Steve Spurrier will coach and even further depending on who becomes the next coach. 

That being said, the Gamecocks must take advantage of the opportunity presented to them this season. They must hit the ground running with incredible focus and energy in order to reach their goals.