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July 25, 2005

Felder: Sorry media naysayers

Commentary by Ted Felder

Article after article about Steve Spurrier's arrival at the University of South Carolina seem to have a few consistent themes: 1. That USC will be a contender in the SEC East only in a year or two; 2. That USC will not win a championship in 2005 and; 3. That if you believe No. 1 and No. 2 are true, then that shows that Spurrier made a mistake by coming to USC.

Of course, that is utter hogwash. What these geniuses don't seem to grasp is that nobody associated with Carolina ever thought that Spurrier coming to Columbia would mean a title this fall. I dare anyone to find me someone that carries a credible opinion that predicted that the Gamecocks would be in Atlanta this December for the SEC Championship.

You can't because one doesn't exist. Yes, there might be a few random bird-backers in the Midlands that are predicting an 8-10 win season, which is clearly too high. Of course there are, but that does not equal the majority or even a large chunk of the University predicting a title this season. It also does not mean that the "honeymoon" will end with a disappointing fall.

Instead, the overwhelming percentage of garnet-and-black wearers seems to be realistic in how they view the upcoming campaign. Perhaps the media brainiacs need to realize that at least 85-90 percent of Carolina fans share the following sentiments:

1. There are four games that South Carolina should not lose under any circumstances: Central Florida, Troy, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt.

2. There are three very important swing games that will determine USC's bowl fate: Alabama, Arkansas and Clemson.

3. There are four games that the Gamecocks will enter as decided underdogs and it would be nice to spring an upset: Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida.

The other 10-15 percent are the fans that are either predicting that Carolina will climb above seven wins or below four wins.

In other words, the issue for the 2005 Gamecocks is whether or not they can take care of business in the "bunny" four games and then try and win two of the swing games. That's it naysayers. Anything more is gravy, plain and simple.

You could understand how someone might be "expecting" the "hungry and rabid" Gamecock Nation to be looking for a title this year. After all, USC fans have earned their reputation about being too giddy at times for no reason. Similarly, the fans at USC have also carried a history of never being able to enjoy success because of cowering in fear for the bubble to break.

Regardless, give Spurrier credit. Whatever it is about him, the man has just plowed right through all of that garbage. It could be his words, his actions, his swagger, his consistency or his confidence. Maybe it's just the combination of them all, but he has been right up front about the fact that the Gamecocks are missing some key pieces necessary to seriously contend for a championship. For once, the fan base seems to be satisfied with that and in agreement that the Spurrier era is more about year two and beyond.

Consider the landscape and it's easy to see why:

1. Ten percent of the roster has been eliminated for various reasons before an official practice has been held.

2. The NCAA has been unnecessarily giving the campus a "roto-rooter" anal exam and enema in a desperate attempt to finally prove Lou Holtz was an evil imp breaking 100's of rules. Basically, this was a waste of money and time, but it did prove a big distraction for the program. The fans get it that attention of that variety can negatively affect an individual football season.

3. Spurrier hit the ground running on recruiting and landed an amazing class by any independent evaluation.

4. USC has a brutal road schedule this fall: Georgia, Auburn, Arkansas and Tennessee. The SEC is never easy, but consider the road slate for 2006 and you can see the difference: Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Clemson and Florida.

So you're going to have to forgive the Gamecock fans that openly mock Lee Corso, Mike Bianchi of the Sun-Sentinel or anyone else who is trying to poke holes in Spurrier's first year at USC. At the end of the day, expectations for this year's slate of games are very simple: If Carolina wins six games and gets to a minor bowl almost everyone at Williams-Brice will be satisfied, like it or not. (Especially if one of those victims is from the Upstate.)

To contact Felder or view other articles he's written, click here.

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