Not that I have anything against Auburn fans — like I always say, Auburn fans are the best in the world! — but I begin today’s live proceedings with a special shout-out to the folks in garnet and black.
South Carolina, you are here.
I didn’t think your team could make it. Lee Corso didn’t think your team could make it. I’m sure there were times — probably in 2007 and 2008 when he was losing to Vandy — when Steve Spurrier didn’t think his team could make it. But here I sit in Ye Olde Dome, and there it is down below: “Carolina” painted in one end zone. (If you don’t believe, photographic evidence is supplied above.)
Auburn has been here before — three times, winning once. Arkansas has made it twice. Mississippi State has even graced this game, but until today the SEC East has always been represented by Florida, Tennessee or Georgia. (Most often the former, as I’m guessing you’re aware.) South Carolina taking its division isn’t quite like the Mets winning the World Series in 1969, but it’s not far off.
Fun with numbers: In its football, which dates to 1892, South Carolina has won 10 games in a season once — in 1984 under Joe Morrison, when it won at Notre Dame and Clemson but lost at Navy. It has won nine games twice — in 2001 under Lou Holtz and this season. It has won as many bowl games as a program (four) as Jim Donnan won in five seasons as Georgia’s coach. (And Donnan got fired, not long after Quincy Carter threw five interceptions and the Bulldogs lost at, ahem, South Carolina.)
The Gamecocks have won only one league championship — the ACC in 1969 — and they’re on their third league. Even this year they cut it close, nearly squandering a strong start by losing to Kentucky, which is difficult to do in any season, and then to Arkansas at home.
But they made it. The Evil Genius and his minions went to Gainesville and whomped the Urban Crier, and the other USC now finds itself in the A-T-L. And the nicest part about that is that long-suffering Gamecock fans suffer no longer.
It was one of life’s great mysteries, right up there with the riddle of Stonehenge and the popularity of Jay Leno: Why did Gamecock fans keep coming back? Their team was the unchallenged master of the cosmic flop, and yet Williams-Brice Stadium was always full. Any neutral who suggested a given year might actually be different for the garnet and black was met with a sneering dismissal from every SEC outpost save Columbia: “Have you never heard of the Chicken Curse?”
Turns out it took an Evil Genius to override the Chicken Curse. Turns out Spurrier knew what he was doing, even if it did take him a while to do it. Turns out South Carolina is playing today to win the conference that prides itself as the nation’s finest.
The Gamecocks aren’t supposed to win this game — I think they’ll prevail, not that I’m ever right about anything — but I’m guessing they don’t much care about perception. They weren’t supposed to get here at all.
And with that, the floor is again open for questions, comments and nominations for Gene Chizik as quipster of the year. I’ll be here all day, and I’d be obliged if you’d join me. And just so my Auburn pals don’t think I’m ignoring them … here’s a photo of the other end zone. War Eagle!