SOUNDS ABOUT RIGHT …

The University of South Carolina football team is projected to finish fourth in the Southeastern Conference (SEC)’s eastern division in 2017. That’s according to a panel of sportswriters who attended SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Alabama this week.

Second-year head coach Will Muschamp’s team actually received five first-place votes, but still placed behind Georgia, Florida and Tennessee in the preseason rankings.  Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Missouri rounded out the SEC East standings.

That sounds about right as far as we’re concerned … in fact, that’s probably right where we would have ranked the Gamecocks, who are coming off a 6-7 campaign in 2016 (their first season under Muschamp).

In the more powerful SEC West, perennial national championship contender Alabama was the runaway favorite – garnering 225 first-place votes.  The Crimson Tide were followed by Auburn, LSU, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

The final votes …

EASTERN DIVISION (1st Place votes in parenthesis)
Georgia (138) 1572
Florida (96) 1526
Tennessee (3) 998
South Carolina (5) 897
Kentucky 869
Vanderbilt 554
Missouri 388

WESTERN DIVISION (1st Place votes in parenthesis)
Alabama (225) 1683
Auburn (13) 1329
LSU (4) 1262
Arkansas (1) 796
Texas A&M 722
Mississippi State 633
Ole Miss 379

SEC CHAMPION
Alabama 217
Auburn 11
Georgia 6
LSU 3
Florida 3
South Carolina 1
Vanderbilt 1
Arkansas 1

As noted above, Alabama was the overwhelming favorite to win its fourth consecutive SEC championship.  Head coach Nick Saban’s squad also boasted ten preseason All-SEC selections – a new record.

Three Gamecocks – junior Hayden Hurst (second team tight end), fifth-year senior Skai Moore (second team linebacker) and junior Deebo Samuel (third team wide receiver) were named to preseason All-SEC teams.

Can they lead their once-proud program back to national prominence?  And do so sooner rather than later, hopefully?

South Carolina posted a 33-6 mark from 2011-2013 under former head coach Steve Spurrier – finishing in the Top Ten nationally in each of those seasons and winning New Year’s Day bowl games.  The program was also ranked among the nation’s top 25 for a record 69 consecutive polls (September 2010 – September 2014).

Since then, though, the wheels have come off – with South Carolina posting back-to-back losing seasons in 2015 and 2016 for the first time in more than a dozen years.

The Gamecocks have competed in the SEC since 1992 – never winning a conference championship and winning their division just once (in 2010).  Unfortunately for the school’s loyal, long-suffering fans (including our founding editor Will Folks), it doesn’t seem as though they will start filling their trophy case anytime soon, either.

South Carolina opens its 2017 season on September 2 against the North Carolina State University Wolfpack at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.  Kickoff is set for 3:00 p.m. EDT.

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