Sunday Drive: USC's biggest win since ...?

Peter Aiken

Random questions-and-answers about the Gamecocks, the SEC and NCAA football.

1.  Is last night's improbable upset win over Mizzou the biggest win of the Spurrier Era?   Maybe.

I divide Spurrier's tenure at USC into two parts:  pre-Pizza Bowl and post-Pizza Bowl.   The HBC had some nice league victories before the 2009 PapaJohn's Bowl:  especially wins over # 12 Florida (2005), # 11 UGA (2007), #8 UK (2007) and # 4 Ole Miss (2009). But none of these can be counted among his most important wins since we weren't really in contention for the SEC title until the 2010 season.   Post Pizza Bowl, the Cocks have notched streaks over Clemson, Georgia and Tennessee, and held our own against UF, but the victory over #1 Alabama (2010) is probably the biggest -until last night, that is?   The "Shaw-Shank Redemption" might send us back to the SECCG - not to mention being the biggest road victory by a Gamecock squad in thirty years and the game that gets the "can't-win-big-on-the-road" monkey off Connor Shaw's back.   We just took down number 5, folks.  Savor that.

2.   Is Connor Shaw the greatest USC signal-caller ever?   Yep.

For me, it's no-contest.  The guy with the shaved head from Flowery Branch, Georgia has been so steady under center that he's made me forget all the USC QB's who've proceeded him -  Ellis, Taneyhill, Newton and even the great Phil Petty.  What words come to mind when you think of Shaw?  Heart.  Moxy. Courage. Steel.  My biggest regret for Connor is that Spurrier did not let him play with a fever and stomach bug against FSU in the 2010 Peach Bowl in relief of Garcia, or start the second half against Auburn in 2011.   I can't believe I doubted on these pages whether Shaw was ready in early 2011.  This kid was born ready.

3.   So just how costly was the UT loss?   Very.

Is it as bad as the Auburn loss in 2011?  Let's hope not.   As bad as the UK loss in 2010?   That's about the best we can hope for.   Now eight days removed from the debacle on Rocky Top, I can be a little more philosophical about it. No -  I'm not grumbling under my breath anymore about the HBC losing it - even though we did get out-coached.   And I'm no longer bellyaching about free-falling in the polls to # 21 - even though Tennessee predictably laid an egg against Bama.  We really ought to have handled the Vols by two scores.  Now, Butch Davis Jones (Ed.: Doh!) gets to come down to the Carolinas and do a recruiting song-and-dance that would have been that much harder if we had only taken care of business; from a historic standpoint, it's not UGA, UF or Auburn that has stymied us in recruiting the Carolinas, but the Vols.   We do not need a resurgent Rocky Top.   From a strategic standpoint, the Vols were the one team on our three-SEC game road trip against whom we most needed to avoid a loss.

4.   So did we do OK on the road trip from Hades?   Probably yes.

Our esteemed Gamecock Man wrote about this three SEC-game road trip back in July.  Well, the pundits were right - we dropped a game.  Heck, we lost a game we should have won because of an improbable pitch-and-catch by the Vols, and won a game we should have lost on an improbable pitch-and-catch by Connor Shaw to Bruce Ellington in the first OT against Mizzou. Frankly, I think it's ridiculous that we've played two (2) road trips of three SEC games in the last three seasons (at least in 2011 there was a bye week thrown in there).   I continue to believe that these "bridge" seasons are scheduled in a way that favors Bama and UGA (unlike GM, I don't count the neutral-site WLCOP as an "away" game for either UF or UGA).  Maybe schedule sanity will return in 2014 but I am not counting on it.

5.   Should we give props to Missouri or a word (or two) of advice?  How about both?

Mizzou belongs in the SEC.   I wouldn't say MU-USC is a "rivalry" game outside of a division match-up, any more than MU-UGA, MU-UF or MU-Vandy.  But maybe - just maybe - there is something brewing between the Cocks and the Tigers from the "other" Columbia?   My advice to the new Tigers on the block?   Don't schedule homecoming against another SEC team - it usually ends poorly unless you have a juggernaut squad.  Second piece of advice? Now that KU won't play you anymore, try to break up that OOC September schedule so you're not playing eight league games back-to-back. Other than that, good luck - except against Ole Miss and/or TAMU, of course.  Sorry but we've been chasing this East division tittle since y'all were still in the Big XII and hoping for a phone call from the B1G.  OK - that last bit was a little harsh, but you're home now in the SEC.   Also - last night's win is payback for the 2005 Independence Bowl, when we surrendered a 28 point lead to Mizzou.   Yes, my Show-Me State friends, we never forget either.

6.   What's with three ACC teams in the top 10 when only 1 deserves to be there?  Who knows.

Clemson struggled with NCSU, BC and Maryland, and got destroyed by FSU.    Miami's signature league wins were come-from-behind miracles against UNC at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest at home.   So why are the Tigers and Canes ## 7 and 8 respectively?  Beats me.   Barring some freak injury or collapse by Jameis Winston, the Hurricanes likely will be demolished by the Noles in Tallahassee next Saturday.  How far will the U fall?  If Clemson's experience is any precedent, not very much - which is ridiculous considering how woeful/inconsistent the rest of the ACC has been in 2013.  On the other hand, our Big Saturday matchup with Clemson might be a Top 10 clash if both teams hold serve.  How sweet will it be to Five Bomb the Dabo-cats when they're in the AP Top 10? Too sweet for words, my friends.  Too sweet for words.

7.   Was Bob Stoops full of Fumets?  You betcha.

Was it that long ago that OU's Stoops said the SEC was weak in the middle compared to the Big XII? Never mind that the SEC has more teams that the denuded Big 12, the SEC currently boast six teams in the Top 25 (three in the Top 10) while the Big XII has only four [Baylor, OU, Texas Tech and OSU] - and only one in the Top 10. Frankly, on paper one could make an argument that the Big XII is the fourth or fifth best football conference, and pretty much a bunch of also-rans outside of the Baylor Bears.   Speaking to the soft middle, would WVU or K-State really want to play Ole Miss, Florida or Vandy?   Would Texas want to get a date with LSU?  Kentucky and Arkansas would feast on the Big XII's bottom-dwellers like KU and Iowa State.  Texas and TCU aren't bad, but they would be underdogs LSU and Georgia.   Frankly, the "top" of the Big XII should be giving thanks that Texas A&M and Missouri are in the SEC.    Maybe Stoops will keep his big trap shut the next off-season.

8.   How big a joke is Taylor Martinez?   The biggest in FBS.

My least favorite QB in big time CFB is the Nebraska Cornhusker's Taylor Martinez.  Not only has Martinez been smoked by South Carolina and Georgia in back-to-back Citrus Bowls while churlishly claiming that the Huskers were the better team, but he missed three games with a toe injury and has claimed he was still hurt when NU lost to the woeful Minnesota Golden Gophers.   As Bugs Bunny would say, what an Ultra-Maroon.  See ya later, Taylor. I don't know who deserves this soon-to-be-even-crappier Husker season more - Martinez or the loathsome Bo Pelini. With games coming up against Northwestern, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Iowa, the Huskers could end on 1-4 or 2-3 skid easily.

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