Pundits: USC to Return to Rightful Place in 2011

I didn’t expect bulletin board material to start rolling in for 2011 this early, but two opinion pieces in one day from the Atlanta Journal Constitution show just how far South Carolina has to go to gain the respect of at least one media outlet.

First, Tony Barnhart predicts Florida will win the East next year.  He doesn’t directly diss the Gamecocks, but his is a sin of omission.  A sampling:

How ready is Muschamp? Well, here’s the first prediction for the 2011 season: Florida will win the SEC East championship. The problem at Florida last season was not talent. It was a lack of focus and a lack of leadership. The team was not focused because too many leaders had left and there was never a coherent offensive strategy. Muschamp can fix the leadership issue and if he hires a top-flight offensive coordinator the other problem can be fixed as well.

So, “Muschamp (first head coaching job) can fix the leadership issue” that Urban Meyer (two BCS National Championships) could not.  This prediction also hinges on the hiring of “a top-flight offensive coordinator.”  Like Major Applewhite?  Meanwhile, South Carolina returns its deepest and most talented team of the Steve Spurrier era in 2011.  Makes perfect sense to me.

Mark Bradley then chimes in with a piece that is more an indictment of/challenge to Mark Richt and Georgia, but he manages to poo-poo the accomplishments of this year’s Eastern Division champs:

South Carolina, which won the East for the first time ever, is demonstrably not unbeatable — it lost the SEC championship by 39 points — and must play in Athens next season.

He goes on:

South Carolina filled the gap this fall, but even in a breakthrough season the Gamecocks didn’t bear the look of a colossus. They lost three regular-season games and nearly threw away the division title. They’ll be good again — Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery return — but probably not great.

Let’s start with “nearly threw away the division title”.  That’s an odd description for dismantling Florida in The Swamp when everyone on the planet knew what was at stake.

And yes, we fell completely apart in the second half of the SECCG, there’s no other way to put it.  But look at the entire body of work and then judge.  The only other game all year we weren’t competitive was Arkansas.  (I will not play the “meaningless game” card there, because there is no such thing in the SEC.)

And the fact we “must play in Athens next year”?  I’m sure our guys will be shaking in their boots.

The more the Gamecocks win, the more the respect we’ll get, I’m sure.

How we infuse the experts with common sense, however, will apparently be more difficult.