Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10: No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks

All this week, Crystal Ball Run will be taking a look at what it considers to be the top 10 teams in college football, as voted on by our staff. Understand that we might not agree on all these selections, but at the very least, it’s a good jumping off point.

Starting things off, the illustrious Michael Felder of takes a look at one of the most fascinating teams on the college football grid, the South Carolina Gamecocks. No team in the SEC East returns more on the field, and no team in college football remains as entertaining and newsworthy off it.

But after winning their first ever SEC East title, is a repeat too much to ask?

Crystal Ball Run Preseason Top 10

No. 10 – South Carolina

South Carolina in a Word: Maturing

South Carolina is coming off its first SEC East division title in program history, and sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore has folks in Columbia thinking that this program is finally ready to stay in front of programs like Georgia, Florida and Tennessee.

Why South Carolina Will Live Up to Billing:

The Gamecocks have the top young running back (Lattimore), the SEC East’s top defensive line, a steady crop of linebackers and Alshon Jeffery at wide receiver. If quarterback Stephen Garcia can stay out of trouble, the Gamecocks have an offense that should be putting up some points.

If the Gamecocks can get by Georgia in a key week two match-up, then the road is not too rough to get back to Atlanta for a second straight appearance in the SEC championship game. They get Florida at home and should be favored in every other game this season, with the possible exception of a road game at Arkansas.

Why South Carolina Will Disappoint:

This is South Carolina after all. The Gamecocks showed in 2010 that they still have a ways to go before being considered an SEC power. Getting thumped by Auburn in the SEC title game, coming up short against Florida State in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as well as losing to Arkansas by 21 showed that South Carolina is a good team, but far from a great team.

If South Carolina can get to its bye week with one or no losses, then we’ll talk.

Key Game: Georgia (Sept. 10)

The SEC East race will likely come down to these two schools when all is said and done, so picking up a win early in the year could set the pace the rest of the way. With Florida a bit of a mystery entering the Will Muschamp era and Tennessee still a year or two from erasing the stain left by Lane Kiffin, South Carolina’s time is now. The Gamecocks have won just once in the last four trips to Athens.

Georgia will be coming off a game against Boise State, and who knows how that could impact this game, as the Gamecocks should be coming off an easier game against East Carolina in Charlotte.

On the Spot: Stephen Garcia

Stephen Garcia, once again, can win South Carolina a game or two as easily as he can lose it. Last season Garcia threw for 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions and passed for more than 3,000 yards. The skills may be there, or need a bit of fine-tuning, but the biggest question mark with Garcia is on his ability to stay out of trouble. If he can stay out of off-the-field trouble, then South Carolina should be in decent shape on offense this season.

Final Verdict:

Will South Carolina build on that success from a season ago, or will the Gamecocks fall back to the middle of the pack in the SEC? We will find out where this season could be heading in the first couple of weeks. East Carolina in the opener could present some problems for South Carolina, and the game at Georgia could be a potential loss. An 0-2 start for Steve Spurrier’s team is not out of the question. Then where do you go from there?

The Gamecocks have what it takes to win a good number of games this season, as the SEC East is still ripe for the picking for South Carolina.

Best Case Scenario: 11-3, SEC East champions, Capital One Bowl
Worst Case Scenario: 5-7, no bowl trip

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About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.