October brutal for South Carolina

While the years of the "Orange Crush" in November has been brutal in the past to South Carolina, it does not compare to what awaits the Gamecocks in October this season. Carolina hosts fifth-ranked Georgia, travels to third-ranked LSU, travels to tenth-ranked Florida, and hosts Tennessee to close out the month.

As the clock struck midnight and Sunday night turned into Monday morning, October arrived. The month of costumes, candy, pumpkin patches, fall festivals, and haunted houses is upon us again. A brief look at South Carolina's October schedule is enough to make Freddy Krueger have nightmares. It seems like the football gods are playing tricks on the Gamecocks and it certainly will be no treat. Of the four other SEC teams ranked in the top 10 (South Carolina is the fifth), Carolina will face three of them in the next three weeks. As if that weren't enough, two of those are on the road in two of the most hostile environments in the country. If South Carolina finishes the month 3-1 they will be thrilled. To escape 4-0 would make Carolina legitimate National Championship contenders.

It all begins on Saturday when the sixth-ranked Gamecocks play host to fifth-ranked Georgia. Some are calling this the biggest game in South Carolina history. In today's culture people are quick to call a game the biggest game in history or a player the best player to ever play the game, etc. In 2006 Southern Cal was built up as the best college team to ever take the field on ESPN, only to fall to Vince Young and Texas in the title game.

South Carolina vs. Florida in 2001 was a huge game. South Carolina vs. Florida in 2010 was a huge game. South Carolina vs. Kentucky in 2007 was a huge Thursday night match-up. South Carolina vs. Ole Miss was another huge game in 2009. You can go down through the years and come up with huge games in South Carolina's history. Fact of the matter is, if Georgia comes in Saturday and wins this game will eventually be forgotten. What can't be denied is that there is more at stake for both teams this week than there ever has been, which is why it could be argued as the biggest game in school history. One thing is for sure and that is the fact that this is certainly the most hyped game in program history that includes another visit to the Horseshoe by ESPN's College GameDay with Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, former Bulldog David Pollack, and Samantha Steele. The winner of this game will have a clear advantage in the SEC East standings and virtually take a two game lead on the other. A Carolina win sets the Gamecocks up in great position to return to Atlanta for the second time in three years. A Georgia win almost certainly locks down Georgia's second straight SEC East title and a return appearance to Atlanta.

Assuming the Gamecocks are able to upset the Dawgs at home they will be rewarded with a trip down to Baton Rouge to face third-ranked LSU in Death Valley. If the Tigers can knock off Florida in the Swamp Saturday, a case could easily be made for GameDay to feature South Carolina in consecutive weeks. Carolina has only won once in Death Valley, an 18-17 shocker in 1994. In their last trip down LSU was able to hold off a great effort by Carolina in 2007 for a 38-26 win en route to the National Championship. LSU has looked quite vulnerable in the last two weeks, struggling to a 12-10 win at Auburn and a 38-22 win against Towson last week. If they are not on their game this week, they could be returning to Baton Rouge with a loss.

After facing the Tigers, they will head to the Swamp to take on tenth-ranked Florida. Florida struggled in the first two weeks while searching for a quarterback. Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett each played a quarter in the a season-opening 27-14 win over Bowling Green, similar to what Steve Spurrier did with Connor Shaw and Stephen Garcia in last year's opener. Driskell won the job and has performed well, leading the Gators to wins at Texas A&M and Tennessee, and a 38-0 drubbing of Kentucky two weeks ago. The Gators undoubtedly have the second-toughest October behind Carolina. Florida hosts LSU this week, travels to Vanderbilt next week, then hosts South Carolina and faces Georgia in Jacksonville.

The Gamecocks close out the month of October hosting Tennessee. Two week ago this seemed like a much easier game for Carolina. The Vols lost to the Gators by 17 points at home in a game that some predicted would be the return to prominence in the rivalry between the two programs. The Gators would have none of that, scoring the last 24 points in the game to beat Tennessee for the eighth straight time. Two weeks later it appeared Georgia was going to take the Vols behind the woodshed and beat them with a leather strap. The Dawgs jumped out to a 27-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but let the Vols right back into the game. Tennessee scored 23 unanswered points to take the lead before Georgia tied it to end the half. The two teams went back and forth the entire second half before a Tyler Bray fumble ending Tennessee hopes of winning in a 51-44 loss to Georgia.

While this month is scarier than any haunted house, it is navigable. Carolina could conceivably go 3-1 and still win the SEC East, but they must beat Georgia. Georgia could very well lose to Florida, but would also have to lose to Kentucky, Ole Miss or Auburn. None of those are likely. In addition to that, Carolina would have to win the remainder of their conference games in order to win the East. While it is arguably the biggest game in program history, it is clearly the biggest game of the 2012 season.

Let the games begin.

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