Gamecocks' BCS title outlook

Marcus Lattimore returns, but South Carolina has a tough schedule to run

Originally Published: May 23, 2012
By Travis Haney | ESPN Insider
LattimoreDaniel Shirey/US PresswireAfter suffering an ACL injury last year, Marcus Lattimore is healthy and ready to roll in 2012.

ESPN Insider's "20 teams that can win it all" series is previewing each of the top 20 teams in Brian Fremeau's five-year program metric (for a full explanation, and links to all of the previews as they are published, click here), with the help of ESPN's Stats & Information group. This is the entry for South Carolina.

The West Coast USC is the one grabbing headlines as the national championship contender, but the one on the East Coast won one more game than the Trojans a year ago (even if the Trojans' postseason ban played a role in that).

So, why can't the South Carolina Gamecocks be a darkhorse title candidate in 2012? Why can't the SEC get its seventh consecutive championship, with its fifth different team? As Steve Spurrier said when he was hired in 2004, citing the Boston Red Sox as his example, "Why not us?"

South Carolina has been knocking on the door, appearing in its first SEC title game in 2010 before winning a school-record 11 games in 2011. Is it ready for the next steps?

Why South Carolina can win it all

No quarterback questions ... finally
This is new: Spurrier has a quarterback at South Carolina. There are no question marks, with respects to performance -- or off-field behavior -- any longer. Connor Shaw became a long-awaited answer last season, taking over for the much-maligned Stephen Garcia.

The Gamecocks went 7-1 with Shaw at quarterback, losing only at then-No. 7 Arkansas. It's difficult to argue with those results.

• Joined ESPN as Insider's national college football writer in April 2012
• Previously wrote for The Oklahoman and The Post and Courier