David Cloninger

Which was the best team in USC football history?

The 10 best teams in South Carolina football history:

1. 2010

Record: 9-5 (5-3 SEC)

Coach: Steve Spurrier

Why: For a program that often judged season successes by whether or not they beat Clemson, this team did that, plus beat No. 1 Alabama (remember the phenomenal catch by Alshon Jeffery from Stephen Garcia?) and won USC’s lone SEC East title. Other teams won more games, but never had those three achievements in a year.

2. 2012

Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

Coach: Steve Spurrier

Why: What puts this team ahead of the other 11-win squads? The two losses – at LSU at night, at Florida to the country’s No. 2 team – don’t leave people shaking their head and saying they shouldn’t have happened.

3. 1969

Record: 7-4 (6-0 ACC)

Coach: Paul Dietzel

Why: The only group of men on the planet, led by quarterback Tommy Suggs, who can say they won a conference championship at South Carolina – in football!

4. 2013

Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

Coach: Steve Spurrier

Why: Tennessee’s Marquez North doesn’t make that catch, the Gamecocks are East champs for the second time in four years. But at least they had the Miracle at Mizzou, which was led by quarterback Connor Shaw.

5. 2011

Record: 11-2 (6-2 SEC)

Coach: Steve Spurrier

Why: So similar to the next team on the list. A really great season with a really head-scratching loss. How did the Gamecocks lose to Auburn, at home, when the Tigers didn’t have Cam Newton and finished 8-5?

6. 1984

Record: 10-2 (Independent)

Coach: Joe Morrison

Why: So many wins, so far down the list. Navy – the worst four-letter word ever uttered around Columbia – cost the Gamecocks a shot at the national championship.

7. 2001

Record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)

Coach: Lou Holtz

Why: The second season of a three-year restoration under Holtz, two of the Gamecocks’ three losses were by a combined 10 points. They posted a repeat of an Outback Bowl win over Ohio State, and beat that other in-state team.

8. 2000

Record: 8-4 (5-3 SEC)

Coach: Lou Holtz

Why: To come this far the year after a winless season was an enormous accomplishment, but the big ones (Tennessee, Florida, Clemson) got away.

9. 1980

Record: 8-4 (Independent)

Coach: Jim Carlen

Why: A Heisman Trophy winner (George Rogers) and a second consecutive bowl appearance, with the biggest win at Michigan. The 10-win Wolverines didn’t lose the rest of the season, including the Rose Bowl.

10. 1903

Record: 8-2 (Independent)

Coach: C.R. Williams

Why: Of the Gamecocks’ eight wins, seven were by shutout. They even beat Welsh Neck, 89-0!

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