1. With the regular season over, has South Carolina met or failed expectations?
The expectations for South Carolina this season were to compete for an SEC Championship and continue the momentum gained from the past two seasons. South Carolina was in the hunt for an SEC Championship until two straight losses to top 10 teams in LSU and Florida derailed those dreams. While it's unfortunate, the Gamecocks did capture their second straight 10-win season for the first time in school history and have a chance to match the school-record for wins in a season if they win the bowl game. I'd say they met the expectations for the most part.
2. What one player has made the difference this season?
If there has been one player that stands out above the rest, it's Jadeveon Clowney. His performance this season has been impressive by setting the school-record for sacks in a season with 13. He added 4.5 sacks against the Clemson Tigers in the regular season finale and basically saved a victory for South Carolina over Tennessee with his sack and forced fumble on Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray. If South Carolina loses that game, it would have been the third straight loss for South Carolina and could have forced the Gamecocks into a bad situation the rest of the season.
3. What are the key improvements that need to be made before the bowl game?
Offensive line improvements would certainly benefit the Gamecocks. Whether it's Connor Shaw or Dylan Thompson, the Gamecocks need to protect their quarterbacks at all costs. The inconsistent play has been there all season but South Carolina has enough talent and players with starting experience now that they should be able to mesh well together.
4. What has been the dominant headline of the regular season?
The return of Marcus Lattimore and his subsequent season-ending injury certainly dominated a lot of talk around the Gamecocks for most of the season. During the early parts of the season, the concern around whether or not he was completely healed from his knee injury suffered in 2011 surfaced on the outside. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks and Lattimore, he went down with another season-ending injury in October and that was a major headline for the Gamecocks. The questions of how will they replace him and move forward were brought up once again. The Gamecocks silenced those critics with a four-game win streak down the stretch that showed they are more than capable of performing at a high level without their star running back.
5. If the recruiting class stays in-tact, what are your expectations for next season?
Expectations for this season should remain the same as they were in 2012. The Gamecocks should expect to compete for an SEC Championship in 2013, win 10 games or more and continue to build the program to top 10 status across the country.
South Carolina is selected to play in the 2013 Outback Bowl against the Michigan Wolverines. This…