The South Carolina Gamecocks head into the 2013 season as a potential dark-horse national championship contender. Head coach Steve Spurrier and his players have high expectations for another successful season in the SEC.
The Gamecocks roster is full of talent and the coaching staff is top-notch, making South Carolina very likely to win at least 10 games in 2013.
With 11 wins in each of the last two seasons, Spurrier's Gamecocks are determined to continue the trend of double-digit win totals. Spurrier will motivate this team, but can South Carolina find a way to win 11 games for a third straight season?
The answer is absolutely yes and maybe more.
Road games have been the Gamecocks' toughest challenge, and they will enter into hostile environments for five games in 2013. Only one of those games is a true road test against Georgia, whereas the other games are very winnable against Central Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri.
The Volunteers and Razorbacks are the toughest of those remaining four road games, though the Gamecocks are more talented and the all-around better team in both matchups.
South Carolina should be able to win at least four of the five road games. The Gamecocks will try to extend their win streak over the Bulldogs to four games and are more than capable of defeating them in Athens.
South Carolina and Georgia face off on Sept. 7, which is an early season battle with huge postseason implications on the line.
If the Gamecocks fall to the Bulldogs early in the year, they must avoid another road loss, which could diminish their chances of gaining a berth in the SEC Championship Game as the SEC East division winner.
South Carolina has seven home games in 2013 and should be able to win six of them, despite battles against North Carolina, Florida and Clemson. The North Carolina game is the first game of the year, and it is hard to see the Gamecocks losing that game. Florida and Clemson are more dangerous opponents since they are both top-10-caliber teams.
In my game-by-game predictions, I have South Carolina going undefeated at home as well as making a run to the SEC Championship Game and beyond.
The Gamecocks are packed with talent on both offense and defense. The biggest question is whether the younger players will be able to handle the pressure situations of playing on the road and in big games against highly ranked opponents.
With a favorable schedule that has one major road test against Georgia and home games against North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Florida and Clemson, South Carolina should be in for at least 10 wins this season.
As for postseason play, South Carolina can absolutely challenge the SEC West winner in the conference championship game. The Gamecocks would most likely play against Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M if they earn a conference championship berth.
I think that the winner of the SEC will take home another national championship for the conference in 2013, and South Carolina is completely in the running to do so.
The Gamecocks have a very good team and the right schedule to put together a memorable season with 10 wins and most likely more.