Change under Steve Spurrier has occurred in spurts. First, we went from a team mired in non-bowl mediocrity (2002-04) to a team that consistently played in bowl games, with the only exception of his nine-year tenure being the odd 2007 team that won enough games to qualify for a bowl but did not get selected to participate.
Then, Carolina moved into the upper echelon of SEC programs with the leap that occurred in 2010, capped by an SEC East championship earned in The Swamp against Florida. For the next 3 years, the Gamecocks ran off back-to-back-to-back 11-2 seasons, basically making them the AAU team referred to in Tom Emanski's famous baseball skills video.
This year, the Gamecocks seem to have taken yet another step. Now, they're not just competing for titles - they're expected to win them. With Florida and Tennessee still scuffling, the fact that Missouri is thought to be taking a step back from their 2013 surge, and the Georgia game being hosted in Wililams-Brice, the SEC's Sports Information Directors think the Gamecocks the most likely team to represent the SEC East in Atlanta:
According to voters in the 2014 report -- the league's 14 football information directors -- Alabama and South Carolina are the choices to win their respective divisions and meet in the Dec. 6 SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
South Carolina received five first place votes from the Eastern Division football information directors to top its division with 35 points. Alabama, in a battle with defending SEC champion Auburn, also got five first-place votes for a total of 35 points to edge the Tigers, who picked up two first-place votes and 32 points.
In the overall poll that is voted on by all 14 football information directors, Alabama and Auburn waged another close battle. The Crimson Tide received eight first-place votes to Auburn's six to finish with 164 points. The Tigers were second with 152.
South Carolina was third with 134 points, and Georgia was fourth with 131. A school's football information director could not vote for his school in the polls.
The respect from its peers has been hard-earned by the Gamecocks over the last decade or so in their climb toward the top of the college football world. The question now becomes whether the Gamecocks can remain at the newfound heights to which they've soared under Steve Spurrier.