Here’s the best thing about South Carolina’s football season, which, as you may have noticed, starts Saturday: Gamecocks fans can decide for themselves how happy they want to be about it.
The first option, henceforth referred to as “the correct choice,” is to be encouraged and optimistic. Three seasons removed from a three-win season, South Carolina has a reasonable chance to finish the regular season 10-2.
The second option, which is only an option because certain college football fans, especially some who have lived through decades of tortured USC football history, are more content in a constant state of aggravation, is to be focused on the “2” in 10-2. The problem, of course, is that the two are South Carolina’s most bitter rival of all-time, Clemson, and South Carolina’s most bitter rival within the conference, Georgia.
The choice is yours.
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Let’s discuss option one first. The Gamecocks were the first team outside the Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll and could jump into the rankings after the first week. South Carolina plays Coastal Carolina in the opener, while No. 20 Virginia Tech plays No. 19 Florida State, No. 22 Boise State plays Troy, No. 23 Texas plays Maryland and No. 25 LSU plays No. 8 Miami. If any of those teams lose, it opens a spot for South Carolina in the rankings.
It’s possible, but not likely, that South Carolina will be the betting favorite in 10 of their 12 regular season games. They have a chance this season to put themselves a step ahead of division blue bloods Florida and Tennessee in terms of program health and stability. Review that last sentence and imagine saying it out loud 10 years ago.
That seems like a season a fan could get excited about.
Now let’s talk about option two. Clemson and Georgia are better than the Gamecocks. The Tigers are ranked No. 2 in the nation. The Bulldogs are ranked No. 3. Both were in the College Football Playoff last year and could be again this year ... and the next and the next, etc. The two teams that South Carolina needs to beat to fulfill its yearly goal of “Beat the East, Win the State” are a considerable step ahead.
If no season that includes losses to the Tigers and Bulldogs can be a success, then this season probably is not going to be.
The good news is every fan can make their own decision about how to proceed from here.