Over the month of July the college football handicappers at Maddux Sports will look at the top college football teams in the nation and preview 31 teams in 31 days. Here is team #23 and the 2010 South Carolina Gamecocks Football Preview.
No. 23 South Carolina Gamecocks
2009 record: 7-6
2009 Bowl Game: 20-7 loss to Connecticut in Papajohns.com Bowl
2009 ATS: 7-5
Returning starters: 16 (9 on offense, 7 on defense)
The Gamecocks’ offense will be strong with nine starters returning. However, South Carolina’s offensive line struggled a bit last season and allowed 37 sacks, tied for most in the SEC. They need to step up their game and protect their quarterback better.
Stephen Garcia will most likely get the nod as signal caller again. He compiled 2,862 passing yards last season and threw for 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, sixth-year head coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t too pleased with his quarterback’s preparation and said he wants Garcia to spend more time in the film room.
True freshman Connor Shaw has looked solid in practice and could replace Garcia should the junior signal caller struggle.
The backfield should be a strength in the Gamecocks’ offense. Kenny Miles had 626 rushing yards, but only one touchdown last season. He averaged a strong 5.4 yards per carry. Power back Brian Maddox got the bulk of the Gamecocks’ scores with six touchdowns, but averaged only 3.0 yards per carry. Jarvis Giles showed that he can run, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. All three of the backs return and South Carolina adds promising true freshman Marcus Lattimore to the mix.
The Gamecocks were one of the top SEC defenses in 2009 and they should be able to rank high again in 2010. They return a bunch of playmakers and are looking to build on the strong 2009 numbers.
Defensive end Cliff Matthews had seven sacks and three tackles for a loss last season. The senior should be able to repeat this performance and will again be a force to reckon with in the Gamecocks’ pass rush. Senior defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye had four tackles for a loss last season and is an important piece of the defensive line.
South Carolina’s defensive backs put themselves in a situation to make a play time and time again last season. However, they failed to hold on to the ball and dropped 18 interceptions. They ended up with only three picks, but are looking to improve on those numbers.
Linebacker Shaq Wilson was the team’s leading tackler with 85. He had 3.5 tackles for a loss and an interception, and anchors a solid linebacking unit. He is looking to repeat those numbers and will be one of the most feared defenders on the Gamecocks’ team.
Kicker Spencer Lanning had a solid season in 2009 and made 28 of his 29 extra point attempts. He made 17 of 20 field goals and was stellar from 40-49 yards. He missed only one out of four kicks from that range. His season long was 47 yards.
Lanning also takes on punting duties and showed that he can succeed in both punting and kicking last season. He averaged 41.9 yards per put and forced 18 fair catches. He buried the ball within the opponent’s 20-yard line 15 times.
Punt returner Stephon Gilmore averaged 10.1 yards per attempt and is looking to improve on those numbers.
Chris Culliver and Bryce Sherman split kick return duties, and did well on their averages. Culliver averaged 22.5 yards per return and Sherman got 20.9. Neither of the Gamecocks’ return men managed to score a touchdown.
Against the spread
The Gamecocks were 7-5 against the college football odds last season. They were great as the home underdog covering in all three games they played in that situation. They did well as the away dog too, going 3-2 ATS. They struggled as the favorite, going 1-2 ATS when favored at home. They didn’t play a game as the road favorite.
South Carolina went 4-4 ATS when playing conference opponents. They did better in non-conference games, going 3-1 ATS. They are 27-25-2 against the spread under Spurrier and 59-55-3 ATS in the last ten years.
You can bet on it
Bet on the Gamecocks at Kentucky on Oct. 16. Spurrier is 17-0 against Kentucky and South Carolina has won the last ten meetings between the teams. Kentucky has some big question marks at quarterback. The Wildcats have to replace four starters on the offensive line.
Favor the fade
Fade the Gamecocks at Auburn on Sept. 25. They are 1-6-1 in the series against the Tigers and have lost the last four meetings. The Tigers are looking to field another strong team. The Gamecocks lost 48-7 in 2005 and 24-17 in 2006 in the teams’ last two meetings.