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SEC 2009 // The Carolina Calendar

This is simply an overview of each of the South Carolina Gamecocks' games this season; predictions come Thursday.

9.3 :: at N.C. State
Last year's meeting was a truly bizarre spectacle. The teams combined for eight turnovers, were a combined 9-for-28 on third down -- and the Gamecocks won 34-0 despite surrendering five sacks and four interceptions. That said, it was a clear improvement over the 1999 game, when the teams played in a tropical storm.

9.12 :: at Georgia
This is almost always one of the best early-season SEC games of the year. For whatever reason, this has become an underappreciated annual rivalry, at least for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has lost the game by more than a TD just once in the last five years, an 18-0 game that was still within reach until late, and three of the last five match-ups have been decided by four or fewer points.

9.19 :: vs. Florida Atlantic
South Carolina dismantled FAU 45-6 three years ago, but the Owls are becoming one of the more consistent mid-majors under Howard Schnellenberger. It would still be a huge upset were South Carolina to lose.

9.24 :: vs. Ole Miss

QB Chris Smelley isn't around to have the game of his life this year, and the Rebels are unlikely to wait until the second half of the year to start putting things together this season. The Gamecocks defense will have to step up if South Carolina wants to win this one. Even then, Stephen Garcia or one of the other offensive players probably needs to have a huge game.

10.3 :: vs. S.C. State
In their last meeting, the FCS Bulldogs were on hand for one of the worst Gamecocks performances of the 2007 season, even accounting for the five-game slide to end the season. The 38-3 South Carolina victory was marred by a terrible performance saved only by S.C. State's apparent eagerness to play even worse.

10.10 :: vs. Kentucky
South Carolina has not lost to Kentucky since the 0-11 season of 1999. Spurrier has yet to lose to the Wildcats in 16 games. Whether this is the 'Cats chance to turn around the streak depends on whether Garcia or Michael Hartline has improved more by this point.

10.17 :: at Alabama
The Gamecocks won their in their last trip to Tuscaloosa in 2004, and the Tide returned the favor by clocking South Carolina 37-14 in Columbia the next year. Alabama has to be a heavy favorite. But the schedule works in the Gamecocks' favor; they are wedged between the Tide's trip to Oxford and home game against Tennessee.

10.24 :: vs. Vanderbilt
You've got to believe that Spurrier wants this one. After defeating Vanderbilt every time he faced them, the Ol' Ball Coach has lost to the Commodores twice in a row. Last year's loss was a fluke-riddled disaster in Nashville; this year's game will be on friendlier terrain, and you have to wonder if the bad luck can continue.

10.31 :: at Tennessee
This is another game that is often excruciatingly close, with the Gamecocks also often coming out on the losing side. For several years, I imagined the game could not possibly get closer, a notion I gave up entirely as the two teams seemed determined to prove me wrong. Last year's 27-6 South Carolina victory in Columbia was the exception; look for the rule to return.

11.7 :: at Arkansas
The general rule has been "South Carolina + Darren McFadden = MASSIVE GAMECOCK FAIL." Otherwise, South Carolina has done okay in recent years. (They are 1-2 against Arkansas teams with McFadden, the win coming in his freshman year; they are 2-0 without him over the last five years.) This is a contrived but interesting rivalry, and I as a Gamecock fan want this game almost as much as Florida or Tennessee. (Georgia is the most important SEC game by a large margin and second only to Clemson among the teams the Gamecocks regularly play.) While beating the Gators and the Vols is enjoyable, I despise losing to Arkansas.

11.14 :: vs. Florida
At this point, South Carolina will be playing its 11th straight game and could be exhausted. But expect the intrigue-filled previews on ESPN and a similar build-up on CBS if the Tiffany Network gets the game; the Gators could well be undefeated, with one of the few obstacles remaining to their bid for a fourth national title in less than 15 years being the coach who won them their first one. Of course, if South Carolina is struggling for bowl eligibility, there won't be as much interest. Just as well; it's almost impossible to see the Gamecocks winning this game.

11.28 :: vs. Clemson
This game has been called the most underrated rivalry in college football for a reason: These teams truly despise each other with the passions of a thousand burning suns. Gamecock fans who bring up the continuous dashing of Clemson fans' hopes of national prominence are likely to get the score of the most recent game thrown back in their face. That's because Clemson is usually the winner, but also because beating a mid-tier SEC team is apparently enough for Tiger fans to consider their season a success, even if it simply means another trip to a mid-December bowl game in a remote rural outpost that resembles their home. There -- I think that was pretty fair. In any case, the infamous fight during the 2004 game was actually not the worst violence in the history of the rivalry. Yes, we hate each other that much.


MONDAY: South Carolina Leans on Hope, Again
LATER TODAY: Spurrier Meets with Two Students
WEDNESDAY: The Depth Chart; Hope and Homerism
THURSDAY: Predictions
FRIDAY: Feedback and Conclusions