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THE THREAD [05.19.08] :: Deja vu all over again

We've been here before.

But it was the other way around. Then -- think waaaay back to the last weekend in April -- the Gamecocks were the favorites and LSU was clinging to life, holding a 6-11-1 SEC record and still in the race, such as it was, for the West because this year the SEC West is to college baseball what the AL Central is to pro baseball: Not very good.

Then came The Sweep, and LSU was 9-11-1 in SEC play and en route to an 18-11-1 league record. South Carolina, 11-7 in the SEC and entertaining dreams of hosting a regional or even a super-regional, began a collapse that would drop the Gamecocks to 15-15 in the SEC and out of all but the slimmest hopes of hosting even a regional.

In fact, South Carolina lost the 3rd, 4th and 5th games of what would become a season-ending 16-game winning streak for the Tigers.

The polls also reflected two seasons moving in different directions. LSU:

The Tigers, riding a 16-game win streak, moved up to No. 8 in this week's Collegiate Baseball poll and to No. 10 in the Baseball America rankings. LSU was No. 16 in both polls last week.

LSU is No. 13 in this week’s USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll, up from No. 21.

LSU's appearance in the Top 10 is the club's first since March 13, 2006, when the Tigers were ranked No. 8 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 10 by USA Today/ESPN.

The Gamecocks:

The University of South Carolina dropped from No. 18 to No. 19 this week in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper poll announced today.

The Gamecocks (37-19), who won three of four games last week, are not in the Baseball America rankings for the second straight week.

So, which LSU players should we fear? Well, you could go with Blake Dean, hitting .340 with 13 home runs; Matt Clark, .333, 19 HRs; Ryan Schimpf, .300, 10 HRs; or Ryan Verdugo, 8-2, 3.54 ERA, .244 BAA and 65 K against 26 BB. To name a few.

The Gamecocks' demise can be tied to their pitching, which surrendered almost 7.4 runs a game during the 6-8 slide to finish the year. So you bring in some new pitching blood, perhaps, to try to fix things.

Redshirt freshman right-hander Sam Dyson, a midweek starter all season, will make his first Southeastern Conference start Wednesday against red-hot LSU in the league tournament.

Dyson (7-0, 3.86 ERA) didn't make the trip to Baton Rouge, La., earlier this year when the Tigers swept the Gamecocks.

During the slide, Dyson went 5.0 innings against Wofford, allowing four hits and one run, and pitched 5.1 innings against The Citadel while allowing five hits and two runs. Sure, it's Wofford and The Citadel; but can he do any worse against LSU than what the Gamecocks have already tried?

And Tanner? He just wants to have fun.

'I like getting on base.' Even if Scott Wingo has to do it the hard way.

Wingo has been hit 15 times -- including a school record-tying three times in one game -- to break the freshman mark of 11 set by Mac White in 1991. The school record is 21 by Brandon Walters in 1996.

Again, Billy Beane would be proud.

The Mayor responds, Part II. Over at Dawg Sports, the Mayor continues his discussion of A Modest Proposal, focusing again on some of C&F's criticisms of the anti-playoff position.

One quibble comes when Kyle writes of C&F's contention that depriving Southern Cal of a shot at it all in 2003 "just ain't right".

What just ain't right? The reality that the flexibility of the historic bowl structure prevented Southern California's unjustifiable exclusion from the designated national championship game from robbing the Men of Troy of their fair share of the national championship? That, by me, is a no-harm-no-foul scenario if ever there was one ... and Division I-A college football's postseason format stands alone in all of organized sport at every level in allowing for such a possibility.

But Division I-A college football's postseason format also stands alone as the only sport where the consensus best team in the nation can be shut out of the "official" championship event. (And on the NFL tangent, the Giants not only beat the Patriots once, but also came very close to doing it another time -- so maybe the Giants were better, no?)

Also, according to Kyle, I want to lose the Cold War.

Against a playoff.

But, wait. Even there, the logic is troubling:

there's a republican system that allows decisions to be made by voting (which, however imperfect, at least possesses democratic legitimacy and human judgment) and there’s an authoritarian system that requires decisions to be imposed from above without regard to logic, evidence, or common sense. In my book, that critical distinction renders playoffs quite literally un-American.

So, allowing a set of former football players and coaches, current coaches and computers to pick two teams to play the only "official" championship game is republican, while putting six teams into a playoff system and see who emerges as the best is authoritarian? C&F isn't sure he follows that one.

The Gypsy Coach of the South, meanwhile, could be on the verge of accomplishing what many thought impossible: Turning Casey Dick into a quarterback. Too bad GCOTS will be leaving before the season ends.