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Carolina And Clemson: Believe The Hype

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Both the University of South Carolina and Clemson University’s football programs are ranked in the Top Ten of an “early preseason” poll released this week by Fox Sports. Head coach Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks – one of only four programs in the nation to put together back-to-back 11-win campaigns – are ranked No. 8, while Clemson checks in one spot behind them at No. 9.

The “official polls” won’t be released until the end of this summer, but barring any unforeseen developments expect both Palmetto State squads to stay where they are heading into the 2013 season.

The Gamecocks – who knocked off Michigan in the 2013 Outback Bowl – finished 2012 ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 7 in the USA Today/ Coaches’ poll (a spot above where they finished in 2011). Meanwhile Clemson –  on the strength of its big Chick-fil-A Bowl victory over LSU – cracked the USA/Today Top 10 last year at No. 9 and finished No. 11 in the AP Top 25.

Here’s what the Fox analysts had to say about head coach Dabo Swinney’s returning squad …

With quarterback Tajh Boyd’s decision to return for another season, Clemson is a heavy favorite to win the ACC in 2013. Boyd leads an offense that averaged 40 points a game last season, and even with top receiver DeAndre Hopkins leaving for the NFL, the Tigers won’t miss a beat. Returning receiver Sammy Watkins to his freshman form is the top priority for coordinator Chad Morris, along with finding a running back to replace Andre Ellington. While the offense will be dynamic, if the Tigers want to make a run at the national championship, the defense has to get better in coordinator Brent Venables’ second year. That task for Venables won’t be easy, as Clemson loses end Malliciah Goodman and must replace three starters in the secondary.

Fortunately for the Tigers, S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley (a Clemson alum) let Swinney, Venables and other Tiger coaches use her taxpayer-funded plane to land some blue chip defensive recruits …

What’s the Fox outlook for USC? Well, despite three consecutive wins over SEC East rival Georgia, USC is still playing second fiddle to the Bulldogs …

Georgia is the early favorite to win the SEC East, but South Carolina isn’t far behind. The Gamecocks have two proven quarterbacks in Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson, and both should have plenty of time to throw behind an offensive line that returns four starters. Talented, but largely unproven running backs Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis will be charged with jumpstarting the rushing attack in 2013. The defense loses a handful of players – namely end Devin Taylor, safety DeVonte Holloman, linebacker Shaq Wilson – but end Jadeveon Clowney is a good place to begin the rebuilding effort.

Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the Fox poll, behind Texas A&M, Oregon, Ohio State and two-time defending national champion Alabama. The Bulldogs open their 2013 season on the road against Clemson on August 31 – a week before hosting the Gamecocks in Athens, Georgia.

So … we know where both Palmetto programs will start the 2013 season, but where will they finish? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography

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