Let's address the possible talk of homerism first, since I know that there's a good chance that some people will view this through that prism. This is the sixth year we've done this series, I have chosen the Gamecocks to win the SEC East a grand total of once. (South Carolina prediction posts for 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013.) Indeed, given that I've got a pretty terrible record at choosing the division winner, I'm not entirely sure I want to pick South Carolina.
The Gamecocks have their flaws. Inexperience along the defensive line and in the backfield could make things very combustible when the other team is on the field. Dylan Thompson has struggled with consistency in the past. Most ominously, Lorenzo Ward has talked about playing at least some of the defensive snaps out of a 3-4 scheme, something that could blow up in South Carolina's face. The reasons are clear -- linebacker is the deepest position on the defense right now -- but a switch to the 3-4 is something that often turns out poorly, particularly when it's done on a temporary basis out of necessity rather than as a permanent switch out of conviction.
But everyone in this division faces a lot of questions. Georgia is replacing the most prolific quarterback in the history of the program and has two starters returning on the offensive line. Everyone is familiar with the questions facing Florida. Anyone who tries to pick a champion of the SEC East might as well start flipping a coin.
If you're not ready to give Florida a pass on last year and give them a shot at double-digit wins, and I'm not there yet, you basically come down to South Carolina and Georgia. Florida has games against Alabama and LSU that will hurt them in the conference, while both the Gamecocks and the Dawgs get easier games against Texas A&M and Arkansas, respectively (though both also play Auburn). In all likelihood, the game between the two will really decide the division this year; both have the ability to win almost all their games outside of that one, particularly if South Carolina can avoid its usual head-scratching loss this year.
When you have two flawed teams playing an early-season game, give me the team with more experience overall and home-field advantage. I've said before that I don't think home-field is quite as important as we make it out to be, but I do believe it's important in swing games, or when the teams are relatively even. Put it together with the experience factor and give South Carolina the narrowest of edges -- I think.
|SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS||GEORGIA BULLDOGS|
|Place: 1st in the SEC East
Record: 11-1, 7-1 SEC
Could be: 7-5 to 12-0
Best chance to be upset: at FLORIDA
Bowl: Contract Bowl
|Place: 2nd in the SEC East
Record: 10-2, 6-2 SEC
Could be: 7-5 to 12-0
Best chance to be upset: CLEMSON
Bowl: CAPITAL ONE
|WEEK 1||8.28.14 | TEXAS A&M | WIN||8.30.14 | CLEMSON | WIN|
|WEEK 2||9.6.14 | EAST CAROLINA | WIN||BYE|
|WEEK 3||9.13.14 | GEORGIA | WIN||9.13.14 | at SOUTH CAROLINA | LOSS|
|WEEK 4||9.20.14 | at VANDERBILT | WIN||9.20.14 | TROY | WIN|
|WEEK 5||9.27.14 | MISSOURI | WIN||9.27.14 | TENNESSEE | WIN|
|WEEK 6||10.4.14 | at KENTUCKY | WIN||10.4.14 | VANDERBILT | WIN|
|WEEK 7||BYE||10.11.14 | at MISSOURI | WIN|
|WEEK 8||10.18.14 | FURMAN | WIN||10.18.14 | at ARKANSAS | WIN|
|WEEK 9||10.25.14 | at AUBURN | LOSS||BYE|
|WEEK 10||11.1.14 | TENNESSEE | WIN||11.1.14 | vs. FLORIDA (Jacksonville) | LOSS|
|WEEK 11||BYE||11.8.14 | at KENTUCKY | WIN|
|WEEK 12||11.15.14 | at FLORIDA | WIN||11.15.14 | AUBURN | WIN|
|WEEK 13||11.22.14 | SOUTH ALABAMA | WIN||11.22.14 | CHARLESTON SOUTHERN | WIN|
|WEEK 14||11.29.14 | at CLEMSON | WIN||11.29.14 | GEORGIA TECH | WIN|