COLUMBIA — College football’s longest home winning streak doesn’t reside in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Nor does it exist in Columbus, Ohio, or Tallahassee, Fla.
Try Columbia – South Carolina, not Missouri – and the home of the Gamecocks.
South Carolina has amassed a 15-game winning streak at Williams-Brice Stadium that dates to the middle of the 2011 season. All of college football’s powerhouse teams – Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State and others – have lost at home during that time span.
The Gamecocks will go for a school-record 16th consecutive home win this Saturday against Florida (7 p.m., ESPN2), and the stakes could be pretty high.
If Georgia loses to Auburn on Saturday, South Carolina can win the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division if it beats Florida and Missouri loses one of its final two SEC games. (Georgia must win its final two SEC games, at Auburn and at home against Kentucky, to have a chance.)
“We need our fans screaming and yelling,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said at his Tuesday news conference. “We all realize our home win streak is on the line.”
The Gamecocks defeated Mississippi State on Nov. 2 to match the school record of 15 in a row set from 1978-80. Michigan’s home loss Saturday snapped the Wolverines’ 19-game streak, giving South Carolina the longest active home winning streak in the nation. Ohio State and Stanford are tied for second with 14.
“The schedule has to favor you a little bit, but for 2½ years worth, we’ve played well at home,” Spurrier said after the win against Mississippi State.
“Our guys play well, the fans are very helpful, we practice here every Monday night. You get comfortable here at home.”
While the 1978-80 Gamecocks feasted mainly on a variety of Atlantic Coast Conference, Southern Conference and independent foes, the more recent squads have won against their SEC brethren. Nine of the 15 wins came at the hands of SEC opponents, and two more came against Atlantic Coast Conference foes.
While South Carolina struggled to put away unranked opponents at home earlier this year, a closer look at the streak shows that the Gamecocks have won by double digits in 12 of the 15 contests.
The closest call came in 2012 when South Carolina nipped Tennessee
With a rabid South Carolina fan base, playing at Williams-Brice is no bargain for opponents. Capacity for the stadium is listed at 80,250, but the Gamecocks regularly play in front of more than that at home.
South Carolina’s players point to the fans as the principal reason for the success at home.
“Our players love to play at home, there’s no place like it,” said Connor Shaw, a senior quarterback who has played in all but one of the home wins. “Our fan base is the best in the country.”
Sidney Rhodes, a member of the special teams, agreed.
“Definitely playing at the stadium gives us confidence,” Rhodes said. “Going out here knowing we’ve got the support of everyone here, it gives us a good bit of confidence going into the game.”
The last time South Carolina lost at home was Oct. 1, 2011. The 16-13 loss to Auburn also was the last time troubled quarterback Stephen Garcia played for the Gamecocks.
Garcia was ineffective against Auburn, and Spurrier benched him for the following week’s game against Kentucky.
With Shaw taking the snaps, South Carolina cruised to a 54-3 win and the start of the home winning streak. Three days later, the school announced that Garcia had been dismissed after breaching another rule.
Now, the Gamecocks are looking forward to breaking the record and adding a couple of more. South Carolina ends the regular season with home games against Coastal Carolina and Clemson.
“Our team has played well and we got some good breaks, got some very good breaks, and hopefully that will continue for the next three weeks,” Spurrier said.