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December 23, 2013

Super Fan: Ranking the top 10 USC football teams of all time

Glenn Snyder's picks for the Top 10 football teams in South Carolina's history.

Although South Carolina does not have a rich tradition of winning football, I have picked what, I think, are the Top 10 teams in USC's history.

No. 10

The 1953 team, led by captain Gene Wilson, was the first Carolina team to win seven games in a season. Coach Rex Enright's squad not only beat in-state rivals, The Citadel, Furman and Wofford, but also ACC foes North Carolina, Virginia, and - most importantly - Clemson.

No. 9

Warren Giese's 1958 team also won seven games with a 5-2 ACC mark. The captains were familiar names – King Dixon, Alex Hawkins and Dwight Keith – and included marquee wins over Georgia in Athens and Clemson.

No. 8

The 1969 team under Coach Paul Dietzel won Carolina's only conference championship. Led by captains Don Bucker and Pat Watson, the Gamecocks finished with a perfect 6-0 ACC mark, which was highlighted, of course, by a 27-13 thumping of Clemson.

No. 7

The 1975 team under Coach Jim Carlen only had a 7-5 record, but directed by captains Jeff Grantz and Garry Mott, had significant victories over Georgia Tech, Baylor and Ole Miss, but the most rewarding was the 56-20 romp over Clemson.

No. 6

The 1980 team has to be on the list because it produced USC's one and only Heisman Trophy winner – George Rogers. Captains Chuck Allen and Rogers led the Gamecocks to an 8-4 record, which included a 73-0 demolishing of Wichita State and a road victory over Big 10 foe Michigan.

No. 5

The 1984 team was the first in school history to win 10 games. The captains were Bryant Gillard, Del Wilkes and Harry Smith, and Coach Joe Morrison's team had significant wins over Georgia, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Florida State and, of course, Clemson.

No. 4

The 1994 team finished just 7-5, but deserves a place on the list because it was the first to win a bowl game, a 24-21 win over West Virginia in the Carquest Bowl. Brandon Bennett, Toby Cates and Tony Watkins were the captains for Brad Scott's squad, that had wins over Arkansas, LSU and Clemson.

No. 3

I put the 2000 team on the list because it was an 8-4 campaign on the heels of an 0-11 season. Captains Andre Offing, Jermale Kelly, Cleveland Pickney, and Cecil Caldwell led Lou Holtz's second USC team to wins over Georgia, Mississippi State and Arkansas, as well as what would be the first of back-to-back Outback Bowl victories over Ohio State.

No. 2

Coach Steve Spurrier's 2010 team finished 9-5 but won the SEC Eastern Division Championship. Captains Ladi Ajiboye, Patrick DiMarco, Spencer Lanning, and Cliff Matthews led the Gamecocks to signature wins over Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, and the title-clinching 36-14 victory over Florida in The Swamp, plus a 29-7 thumping of Clemson.

No. 1

My choice for the number one spot may surprise you, but I pick the 2013 team. Coach Spurrier will tell you this one of his favorite teams. Despite having All-American Jadeveon Clowney and experienced quarterback Connor Shaw, there were only four scholarship seniors on the roster, and this season could have been labeled a “rebuilding” year. The Gamecocks did not use that excuse, however, and have the opportunity for their third 11-win season in a row with captains Shaw, Chaz Sutton, A.J. Cann and Kelcy Quarles leading the way.

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