Joined The Augusta Chronicle in 1996 after spending nine years at The Aiken Standard. Served as copy editor, South Carolina bureau chief and Metro Editor before being named Sports Editor in April 2000.
Posted November 12, 2011 10:49 pm

Gamecocks still have plenty to play for

It's ironic that on the same day South Carolina beat Florida, posted its best SEC record and completed a sweep of Eastern Division rivals, the Gamecocks also were losers.

Georgia's convincing win over Auburn a few hours after South Carolina's 17-12 victory more than likely gives the Bulldogs the right to represent the East in the SEC title game. Once the formality of beating Kentucky is taken care of next week, the Bulldogs will have completed an impressive turnaround after starting the season 0-2.

While some South Carolina fans might be disappointed on not going to Atlanta, all is not lost. South Carolina still has some lofty goals left to achieve.

1) Beat The Citadel and Clemson to finish 10-2. If the Gamecocks do that, it would match the most wins in school history set in 1984. The Nov. 26 tilt with Clemson is shaping up as the biggest showdown, at least on paper, between the two old rivals. South Carolina should be 9-2, and Clemson 10-1, when the two teams meet.

2) With wins in their final two regular season games, the Gamecocks could be in line for a decent bowl. Assuming the SEC West sends two teams to BCS games, South Carolina could land in one of the Jan. 2 bowls in Florida that feature SEC teams. The Gator, Outback and Capital One bowls would all welcome South Carolina and its enthusiastic fan base. Two bowls in Tennessee, the Music City and the Liberty, also feature SEC teams. The Chick-fil-A Bowl, held in Atlanta on New Year's Eve, is also a possibility.

3) By not going to the SEC championship game, where South Carolina would be a decided underdog against whoever represents the West, the Gamecocks have a chance to rise in the polls. By finishing the season with three consecutive wins (two regular and one bowl), the Gamecocks would likely notch their highest finish in the polls.

All of those goals could be a tall order if South Carolina doesn't figure out how to score more points. Although Steve Spurrier was downright giddy after beating Florida on Saturday, the Head Ball Coach couldn't resist a couple of classic jabs.

South Carolina only completed seven passes for 84 yards. Spurrier: "It was a beautiful day today. You think this is a day to throw it 300 yards, but we'll keep working on it and see if we can get better."

On Connor Shaw's lack of consistency passing: "He throws beautifully in practice," Spurrier said. "He gets hesitant at times (in games). Guys get in his face and he's used to taking off."

Nevertheless, Shaw got a game ball from Spurrier on Saturday for his running skills.

South Carolina has gone through a lot this season. From the upheaval caused by Stephen Garcia to the injury that ended Marcus Lattimore's season to a wildly inconsistent offense, the Gamecocks have somehow found a way to win most of their games. That hasn't always been the case in Columbia; plenty of previous Gamecock squads have folded at the first sign of adversity.

That might be why Spurrier was grinning so much Saturday. Even in a season where so much has gone wrong, the Gamecocks still have plenty to play for.