Fans look at the ceiling of a college football team, the heights it might be able to reach. Folks closer often look at the floor, how one can measure progress by building consistency.
South Carolina’s 37-35 win against Missouri didn’t do much for the team’s ceiling. It did a whole lot for the floor.
If South Carolina lost the rollercoaster of a game, it was staring at the real possibility of going from nine wins to missing the postseason. USC has three games left it should win: Tennessee, FCS Chattanooga and whichever mid-major takes a check to come to Williams-Brice in December.
That would’ve gotten the Gamecocks up to five wins. But the other four remaining, those aren’t so easy.
Beating Clemson or Florida on the road appears a tall order at this juncture. Texas A&M is feisty and talented, and will likely be getting better each week. Ole Miss is a winnable game, but that offense could also hang 50 on USC’s inconsistent defense.
So with Missouri rode the chance of a likely bowl, the chance to make sure that if there is some backslide this season, it’s not a truly catastrophic one.
It wasn’t easy. The Gamecocks could’ve folded at multiple junctures, undone by mistakes and circumstance. But they didn’t, they fought hard enough to draw Will Muschamp into sprinkling some lightly salty language into his praise (at least lightly when talking into a mic).
Again, it doesn’t catapult the Gamecocks back toward the high expectations of the preseason, especially with quarterback questions looming. But it carries weight toward a program’s progress.
As Muschamp likes to say, the win doesn’t put the Gamecocks where they want to be, but it puts them in a lot better spot than where they were.