Gamecock Reasons for Optimism:
Their pass defense ranked 8th in the nation last year, and they finished 15th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. Plus, they have seven starters returning on defense. But then again, when hasn't the Gamecock defense been sturdy under Spurrier and Holtz?
2. Their OL can't possible be Worse
Kidding. It can definitely be worse. See below.
3. Marcus Lattimore
The most important Gamecock running back recruit since Derek Watson. Well...I guess you could list D. Summers, but that guy had more issues than TV Guide. Unfortunately for SC, Lattimore will be running behind the "Palmetto Curtain" (the thatched palm leaf quality SC offensive line). The SC running game ranked 91st in the nation last year...so Lattimore is pretty much their only card to play here.
4. The Youth Movement
All joking aside, the Gamecocks genuinely do have some explosive young play makers. Alshon Jeffery (WR) in particular is a true weapon that can make a QB like Garcia look very good. If he has time to throw.
Reasons for Worry:
If there's an area that has performed worse for Coach Spurrier during his tenure than quarterback, it's offensive line. Over the past three seasons, they have averaged 36.7 sacks allowed per season. Add to that problem...the team's starting left tackle and a starting offensive guard are both apparently under NCAA investigation for their involvement in Hotel Gate.
A girl once told me that there are two kinds of scary. There's "Oh, my gosh this roller coaster sure is scary." And then there's "OH MY GOD THERE IS AN INTRUDER IN MY HOME!" If the anemic Gamecock OL loses two starters off a unit that has under performed as much as this group, Garcia's level of fear will be more in the second category.
2. Stephen Garcia
This has been covered to death by every SEC journalist. Once or twice per year, Garcia looks ridiculously good. For instance, his Heisman-like performance against UGA last year. And then there are the other times. For instance, his last two bowl performances were the toughest vacation footage I've seen since the movie "Very Bad Things" albeit without the dead hooker.
3. The Schedule
Road games against Auburn, Florida and Clemson would be tough enough, but they also get home games against Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Arkansas. It's sincerely one of the toughest slates in the nation.
4. Hotel Gate
Along with the two offensive linemen listed above, they also have TE Wesley Saunders involved in this mess. Saunders is currently off the team and will miss the Southern Miss game. Plus, their best DT and a back-up safety are under the same microscope.
Overall, a 7-5 regular season sounds about right based primarily on the bigger mess at Tennessee. If Spurrier had caught a break or two on the SEC West Rotation, a nine win season wouldn't have been out of the question. But he didn't. A trip to Memphis or Birmingham sounds about right. That said...if they can topple UGA in Week 2, their entire season can change.
As for the chicken fans crowing with delight over this season...what SEC team has ever had the questions SC has at QB and OL and had a breakout year? I smell retirement for the Head Ball Coach.