The goals the South Carolina football team reached Saturday with a 28-20 win against Florida were modest.
Teams that go 5-3 and secure second place in the division don’t tend to dot halls of fame. Squads that secure win No. 7, which mainly just sets up the chance to get an eighth, aren’t often remembered among the greats.
But what South Carolina did while coming out on the right side against a cratering Florida team was about the gains that are modest. It was about what Will Muschamp simply called progress.
“The best record we’ve had since 2013 in the SEC,” Muschamp said. “That’s what I, when you talk in terms of progress, you need to be able to show recruits. You also need to be able to show your team. As hard as we worked, as much time and effort that they put into what we do and how we do it, you’ve got to be able to point to certain things and say this is why you’re working. This is why you’re doing these things.”
This is important, especially important for a team that bottomed out with three wins a few years ago and had to hit the reset button. Competence in the face of adversity is an important pitch to potential players.
Folks want it to go quick: first success, then recruits, then high-end success.
But that’s not how college football often works. It can be that way at the powerhouses, the Alabamas or Southern Cals. But at a place like South Carolina, a program builds gradually.
That means more than a few eight-win seasons, but that in itself is important. Eight or nine wins is good. It means a team is always in position, always close when the right recruit lands or right break hits.
The best way to reach greatness is still to be good consistently, and slaying much of the smoldering ruin that is the SEC East is part of that progress.
USC can secure it with a win next week, and potentially the week after is a chance to turbocharge things. But Saturday was a step toward that, not pretty or comfortable, but the sort of victory with subtle, important reverberations.