10 teams that could win it all in ’13: South Carolina

Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Between now and the start of college football season, I’ll present you with 10 college football teams that have a realistic chance to win the national title this year. Today, the series continues with South Carolina.

South Carolina Gamecocks (2013 schedule)
2012 record: 11-2
Outback Bowl champions (defeated Michigan 33-28)

Why they could win it all: South Carolina has just been getting better and better since head coach Steve Spurrier took over, and while I hate admitting that — I’d rather see Spurrier fall into a pond on the 13th hole during his next golf outing than win a single football game — he has quietly built a very strong program in the SEC East. You always hear a lot about Georgia and Florida, but how about what the Ol’ Ball Coach has done in Columbia?

Connor Shaw isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s good enough. Remember, defense is key to being a dominant SEC team, and they have Mr. Jadeveon Clowney leading the way on that side of the ball.

Clowney won’t win the Heisman Award, but he could be the most talented football player in the nation in 2013. The defensive end has a cult following, and for good reason — he’s a freak of nature. He’s going to draw double- and triple-teams from offenses this season, opening the door for fellow defensive linemen Chaz Sutton, Kelcy Quarles and J.T. Surratt to victimize opposing quarterbacks.

Additionally, South Carolina’s schedule is not that bad. If they can survive a game in Athens against the Georgia Bulldogs on Sept. 7, they’ll have their two toughest remaining games at home when they play Florida and Clemson in November. And about that Georgia game — the Gamecocks will have nine days to prepare for the Dawgs after their Thursday night game against North Carolina later this week (and UGA will be coming off a dogfight against Clemson this Saturday). Ah, fresh legs!

(More in this series: Alabama | Ohio State | Oregon | Clemson | Louisville | Georgia | Stanford)

Why they might not win it all: Losing any semblance of a running game certainly won’t be easy to overcome, so if sophomore running back Mike Davis can’t shoulder the load, it will be tough for the offense to find balance this year. The defense lost several key pieces in the offseason as well, and those flaws could be exposed early by an angry Georgia squad that will be looking for revenge after the Gamecocks embarrassed the Dawgs last season.

And let’s say Clowney doesn’t get help from his defensive line when he’s being double-teamed by opponents? How potent will that defensive line be then?

Now, factor the history of South Carolina Football. Are we really to believe this is the squad that will finally rise up and win the program’s first national title? Can you really see Connor Shaw hoisting a crystal ball above his head in January?

It would be wild, that’s for sure.

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