South Carolina’s football team already has exceeded expectations for its 2016 football season.
Now, the Gamecocks have moved on to worrying about history. South Carolina can win its ninth game of the season on Monday against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. At some places, there’s no real significance to that number. At South Carolina, there is plenty.
The Gamecocks have won more than eight games in a season just six times in 123 years worth of football. Four of those times have come since the 2010 season, so in its first 115 years of competitive football, South Carolina won more than eight games twice.
The reason that folks used to talk about the “Chicken Curse”? The reasons the Gamecocks and their fans for so long felt like outsiders in the SEC? It’s because there was always a ceiling on the program, and that ceiling was eight wins.
Steve Spurrier changed that from 2010-2013, but the lid looked like it was closing again. In the three-season stretch starting in 2014, South Carolina was 16-22. In short, same old Gamecocks.
When Will Muschamp was hired following the 3-9 2015 season, the only thing anyone expected for a while was to get them back to the position where they could see the ceiling. Instead, in Year 2, Muschamp and company have a chance to win nine games if they can upset the Wolverines, who were an eight-point favorite as of Wednesday.
“It’d be awesome,” junior offensive lineman Zack Bailey. “The 3-9 season, we were all here for. Getting to where we are now is awesome.”
A word of warning, though. Expectations are a two-way street. Winning nine games this year will make the offseason more fun for the Gamecocks, but it also will make 2018 more pressure-packed. Once the ceiling has been smashed, nobody wants to go anywhere near the floor again.
Who: South Carolina (8-4) vs. Michigan (8-4)
When: Noon Monday, Jan. 1
Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.
Line: Michigan by 8