First, let’s pay homage to maybe the greatest Rivalry Saturday in college football history. You saw South Carolina beat Clemson 31-17 in a game that was good until midway through the fourth quarter, and the whole world saw the absolutely miraculous way Auburn beat Alabama. But what about Duke-North Carolina (27-25 Duke to put the Blue Devils in the ACC title game), Michigan-Ohio State (42-41 after the Wolverines tried and failed on a two-point conversion in the final seconds), Georgia-Georgia Tech (41-34 in double overtime)?
Now, for a moment of reflection. If not for a dud of a game on Oct. 19 against Tennessee, a 23-21 loss, and more specifically a fantastic, one-handed, third-and-long catch by Marquez North, South Carolina would be in national championship contention this morning.
Missouri ended the Gamecocks’ hopes of getting something bigger out of this season when it edged Texas A&M 28-21 in a game that ended as the South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and his players were meeting with the media following their game, leading to this quote from Spurrier during his news conference: “We are a very blessed team. Hopefully it can keep up. That Missouri game still tied? Mizzou scored? I thought they had third and long there. Whatever happens, happens.”
In many ways, this South Carolina team, which has the fewest seniors in FBS, overachieved, but after a topsy-turvy day in college football, it was hard not to think about what could have been. A one-loss Gamecock team would be in the middle of the conversation that Auburn is having right now, which is to say campaigning for a one-loss SEC team to potentially jump an undefeated Ohio State team to get into the national title game.
When Alabama was rolling through the regular season undefeated and hurtling toward, it appeared, a third national title, the SEC East opponent in the conference title game didn’t seem to be all that important, but very little about Auburn looks unbeatable, which makes missing the game sting that much worse for the Gamecocks.
“How about that Auburn win? They are a team of destiny,” Spurrier said. “I thought we might be if Missouri lost, but it looks like now Auburn could be the team of destiny.”