The South Carolina Gamecocks are ranked No.6 in the pre-season rankings led by defensive end and key focal point playmaker Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney who was sixth in the Heisman trophy voting last year, made headlines with his hit of running back Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.
The hit – where Smith’s helmet went flying after impact – made Clowney a global talking point due to the ferocity of the hit. Steve Spurrier has handled his star player with better care than Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M has with Johnny Manziel; whose off-field antics have provoked much discussion about his ability to handle the limelight. Manziel will sit out the first half of the Aggies’ opening game versus Rice University.
Clowney has got better in the close season, working on his skill set and making himself a better player, according to other defensive end Chaz Sutton:
“Any game we go into we just want to prove we can get to the quarterback quick and fast in a game,” Sutton said. “We just want to set the tone with our front four and be that way all night.”
South Carolina though still have options on offence although a slight injury concern over highly rated receiver Bruce Ellington will be one of concern. The offense has to be the sort as marshalled by Trent Dilfer for the Baltimore Ravens in 2001 during their famous Super Bowl run when Ray Lewis’ defence rode shotgun over NFL offences. Junior Dylan Thompson will be expected to make mistake free, efficient passing and get good field position to allow Clowney, Sutton et al to work their magic on the defensive side.
Expectations are for the Gamecocks to win, and get some momentum before a huge clash at No.5 Georgia next week (who themselves play rated Clemson of the ACC on Saturday). The Gamecocks are touted to win the SEC East thanks to a favourable schedule where they only face Arkansas and Mississippi State of the SEC West avoiding Alabama, Auburn and Johnny Football.
Although they should beware of North Carolina QB Bryn Renner who has thrown for 54 touchdowns in the last two seasons and is in charge of a high tempo offense, new head coach Larry Fedora employed at Southern Miss.
In the other curtain-raising game for the West Coast, #24 ranked USC Trojans travel to Hawaii hoping to have a better season than last year when they did not meet expectations and not helped by an injury suffered to Matt Barkley.
Barkley, receiver Robert Woods and safety T.J. McDonald have all left for the professional ranks. Yet they still have the No 1 receiver in the country in Marqise Lee and running back Silas Reed, with the option of two young sophomore quarterbacks in Max Wittek and Cody Kessler.
Kiffin will hope he has a better season, the Trojans lost five of their last six games and lost the Sun Bowl to Georgia Tech to finish 7-6 after starting the season ranked #1. In the Pac-12 where Oregon and Stanford are expected to duke it out, expect the Trojans to spring a few surprises again with a favourable schedule with Stanford having to come to the Coliseum in November.
It’s felt a long time since Alabama won the National Championship in January, now the five month bull rush can begin. And its the end of an era, this will be the last season of the BCS rankings before the four team play-off begins in 2014.