South Carolina will begin its 2013 season of great expectations ranked seventh in the coaches’ poll, one of two polls that factors into the Bowl Championship Series formula.
Fitting of the Gamecocks being at the apex of their program’s achievement, seventh is the highest they have ever been ranked in any preseason poll. (You can find this year’s full preseason coaches’ poll here.)
Coming off back-to-back, program-best 11-2 seasons, the Gamecocks have perhaps the best player in college football, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and are aiming for their first Southeastern Conference championship.
The coaches’ poll plays a part in determining a greater goal – the participants in the BCS title game. This is the 16th and final year of the BCS, before the new College Football Playoff begins next season. The coaches’ poll counts for one-third of the formula that determines the BCS standings. The Associated Press poll, though often cited, does not count in the formula.
The Harris Interactive poll and an average of six computer rankings comprise each of the other thirds of the formula. The Harris poll does not release preseason rankings. Last year’s first poll was released Oct. 7. The preseason AP poll will be released later this month.
Last season, USC started ninth in the AP poll and finished eighth. The Gamecocks started ninth in the coaches’ poll and finished seventh. Those were USC’s highest preseason and postseason rankings ever.
In 2011, USC started 12th in the AP poll and finished ninth. The Gamecocks started 12th in the coaches’ poll and finished eighth. Before 2011, they had never finished in the top 10 in either poll. Now, they have done it in both major polls in back-to-back years.
USC opens the season at home on Aug. 29, a Thursday night, against North Carolina. The Gamecocks begin preseason practices on Friday night.
Before 2011, USC’s best final ranking was 11th in the 1984 AP poll. Because the AP poll has better Internet archiving, here’s a look at the times when USC has started and finished in the AP top 25 …
9 – 2012
12 – 2011
14 – 1959
17 – 1970
17 – 1985
19 – 1988
21 – 2001
22 – 2002
8 – 2012
9 – 2011
11 – 1984
13 – 2001
15 – 1958
15 – 1987
19 – 2000
22 – 2010