The University of South Carolina football team will finish third in the SEC East in 2012 with a 5-3 conference record … at least that’s what one Clemson sports writer is predicting.

Tim Matyaszek, a Clemson graduate and contributor to, predicts that that the ninth-ranked Gamecocks will finish behind No. 6 Georgia and No. 23 Florida in the SEC East.

“The Gamecocks no longer have a ‘go-to’ wide receiver, and have serious question marks in their secondary,” Matyaszek writes in his 2012 SEC preview.

That’s true …

Matyaszek predicts Georgia will repeat as SEC East champs, but he point out that “if quarterback Connor Shaw doesn’t fall into a ‘sophomore slump’; (Marcus) Lattimore returns to form and a go-to wide receiver emerges, South Carolina can make a run at the SEC East division title.”

After last year’s school record 11-win season and first-ever Top Ten finish, expectations are through the roof in Columbia, S.C. – and with good reason.  Unlike previous years, there is not a single game on USC’s 2012 schedule that the Gamecocks aren’t fully capable of winning – and at this point we see only one game (October 13’s trip to Baton Rouge, Louisiana) in which USC should be designated as the underdog.

Now … does that mean the Gamecocks are actually going to go out and win all of those games?

No … it just means they can.  And more often than not, should.

That unpredictability (along with USC’s chronic inability to deal with success) makes Matyaszek’s analysis worthy of consideration … even if it does come from a graduate of “Moo U.”  We disagree with him (we don’t see USC dropping three games this year), but his prediction isn’t unreasonable.

Moreover, it’s hard to fault the guy for wanting to cover a conference where they … you know … actually play football.

Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina