The Carolinas have major colleges but little major college football.
Every September we clench our fists and say, this is the season it will be different. By mid-October, our fists no longer are clenched. Some teams rise from bad to mediocre and others fall from mediocre to bad. Only the names change.
So far this season, North Carolina can't block, Clemson can't win a big game and N.C. State struggles to win a small one. Wake Forest and East Carolina are OK, Appalachian State no longer beats everybody by 30 and Duke can't carry two states by itself.
Ah, but we have one team in the top 25, and on Saturday night that team has an opportunity to shock the sport and make football in the Carolinas relevant again.
So for one evening, how about we put aside our conventional allegiances and get behind Steve Spurrier and his South Carolina Gamecocks.
I didn't think so.
Not everybody is moved by Spurrier. I talked to a guy the other night about playing 18 holes with Spurrier in a celebrity golf tournament.
"He started talking trash on the first hole," the guy told me incredulously.
When did he stop?
"As far as I know," said the guy, "he hasn't."
But Spurrier can't talk the way he once did until he beats somebody. He has beaten the fourth-ranked team in the country (which is not the same as beating the fourth-best team in the country). Next month he gets the team that's ranked No. 1.
On Saturday he gets No. 2 Alabama. Worse, he gets Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Ala., at 7:45 p.m. You think those Crimson Tide fans will be ready? You think with all day to prepare, they will insist upon being heard?
They might be heard during the game, but they'll be quiet afterward. Despite Alabama's overwhelming fans and even more overwhelming talent, I foresee the biggest upset in college football in 2009.
The 22nd-ranked Gamecocks are going to beat the Crimson Tide.
Am I worried? Of course I'm worried. Alabama is made up of players who have been in the program so long they worry about hair loss. South Carolina is made up of players so new to college football they worry they'll never grow facial hair.
The disparity in experience is frightening.Yet South Carolina will upset Alabama for two reasons.
The first is that Alabama, a 17-point favorite, is supposed to win. When the Gamecocks take a late lead, how will the favorites respond? The players will turn to coach Nick Saban and Saban will tell them, "I'm a great recruiter."
But innovation will be required, and it will be too late.
The second reason is Spurrier, the great innovator. Spurrier won a national championship at Florida and, more impressively, an ACC championship at Duke.
He once was the best football coach in the country, and magic still lurks beneath his visor. It has been simmering. And as the late and oh-so-great John Lee Hooker sang, "It's in him and it got to come out."
It comes out Saturday in suddenly sullen Tuscaloosa.
The Final score:
South Carolina 21.
Football in the Carolinas: Worthwhile.