Monday, July 22, 2013

Swimming in the deep end of the pool

Is South Carolina ready?

Okay Gamecock fans, we have what we’ve always wanted:  respect and a real opportunity.  Carolina is 22-4 over the last two seasons; we are in everyone’s top 10; we are picked by some in the credible media to actually win the SEC; we have a long-shot Heisman candidate winning an ESPY and saturated with national media; we are hated by our rivals for the right reasons for a change-  we beat them every year.  In short, we are the dog that has caught the car bumper.  

I have lived long enough to see us morph from a program that used to wildly celebrate a big upset every couple of years to a team that would view a 9-3 record as a complete failure.  A team that has moved from tearing down the goalposts after beating New Mexico State (true story) to a team that would implode over a close loss in Athens in September.  A team that had not won back-to-back games against Clemson in 40 years to a team that is salivating over the prospect of a fifth-straight win over the once-proud orange kitties.  For good measure, compared to previous seasons our schedule is actually sort-of fair compared to our peers.  It may not be a “perfect” chance but it’s as close to perfect as I have seen. 

Older Gamecock fans (if they are being honest) can only see the land mines on the path and are scared of what happens if we hit one.  I am a pretty negative “old-school” fan at heart, so I admit I think this way.  I ask myself all the time things like, “Can we win big with all new linebackers?”  “Do we have enough depth in the secondary?”  “Can Connor Shaw actually win in Athens?” “Can we survive the three-game road stretch” You get the idea.  

Meanwhile, as I have talked about in other columns, younger Gamecock fans are used to all the winning and success and are only excited about the good stuff.  Instead of my paranoid questions, they are asking things like, “Will I be able to get a ticket to the national title game?”  “Which SEC West team will we beat in Atlanta this year?”  “Will Clemson keep Dabbles after we beat them for the fifth straight time?”  Heck I wish I was like that and I am happy for them.  

But whether you are a Linus or a Pigpen, you know this is our best shot at joining the national elite for good.  We have had individual teams that have earned national respect but it didn’t last.  For example, I still view that 1987 team as one of the best we ever had and they had only 8 wins and 4 losses!  This team has a serious chance to get to 12 wins or more.  Can you imagine a group of seniors leaving Columbia with 44-10 record, an 8-0 mark against Clemson and Georgia, 2 SEC East Titles, 3 bowl wins, and SEC Championship, etc.?  

Things are as good as they have ever been in Columbia and it’s time to grab the gold. 
It’s a great time to be a Gamecock!

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