South Carolina's spoiler status

South Carolina's defense is having a very strong season in 2011. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

South Carolina Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has won a lot of honors during his collegiate coaching career, including a national championship, seven SEC titles and nine SEC Coach of the Year awards, but one honor that has evaded him is the national coach of the year award.

The only chance of that changing this season is if the Gamecocks do the improbable and win an SEC championship.

That seems extremely unlikely at first glance. The Gamecocks are currently in first place in the SEC East division and are ranked ninth in the current BCS standings, but they are also a team that has lost its best player (running back Marcus Lattimore) to injury and saw its starting quarterback kicked off the team in the middle of the season. Plus, there is the matter of South Carolina playing in the same conference as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, the LSU Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide.

But an SEC title coming to South Carolina might not be quite as unlikely as you would think, thanks to an elite defense that has carried the Gamecocks so far this season. It's this unit that has the team in position to play a spoiler role during the stretch run of SEC play.