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Expectations: How Great?

The last post started out in the direction of an expectations post, but changed for a few reasons.

One was that C&F hasn't finished all his preview work yet, and it seems a bit unfair to set expectations before he knows more.

Second, and perhaps more important: What expectations do you mean?

Going into the fourth year of the Spurrier era, the questions have already begun to crop up: Is he still the coach that had so much success at Florida? Can he still win the SEC? Was it ever reasonable to expect him to do it at South Carolina?

Has the game passed him by?

To those fans who would accuse C&F of being unfairly negative, these are not unreasonable questions. Steve Spurrier is 21-16 at South Carolina in three seasons; is that really what you expected?

Yes, the mark is the best for the first three years as Gamecocks head coach since Joe Morrison went 20-14 from 1983-85. (And more consisent; the Man in Black was 5-6, 10-2 and 5-6.) And it marks the first time South Carolina has had three straight winning seasons since a four-year strech from 1987-90 (8-4, 8-4, 6-4-1, 6-5). And Spurrier is so far the first Gamecocks coach with more than one year of service to not have a losing season since Billy Laval (1928-1934) -- who actually had a 5-4-2 mark in 1932.

But is that something to be proud of? Are we willing to cheer because Spurrier has made South Carolina less mediocre?

That's not what we expected. And that's not what Spurrier came here to do.

Undoubtedly, this is an important season for the Gamecocks. If the team can put together an 8-4 or 9-3 regular season -- which looks generous, at this point -- it will restore the positive momentum from the end of 2006. But if the team goes 6-6 or an unimpressive 7-5 (losses to the Big Three, LSU and Clemson; wins against the remaining weak teams), a sense of stagnation could begin to set in.

We won't even talk about the possibility of a losing season.

In college football, momentum is important. Unlike pro sports, where the team chooses the talent, in college talent gets to choose the team. There comes a point, one that might have already arrived, where the players choosing their college destination won't even remember Spurrier's glory days. Students coming out of high school now were in middle school when HBC left Florida.

If Spurrier's records are 7-5, 8-5, 6-6 and 7-5, where is the sense of progress? What, exactly, prompts a blue chip recruit to say, "South Carolina is where I want to play my college ball"?

A couple of hearty folks have already chosen "10-12" in the poll asking how many games South Carolina will win in 2008. C&F wishes he shared their optimism. To do that, the Gamecocks must win all the games in which they'll be favored and lose to two or fewer of the following teams: Georgia, Florida, Tennesee, LSU and Clemson. Possible? Of course. Likely? No.

So what do we expect? Should we expect 8 or 9 wins in 2008, because that's what will mark progress? Or should we expect 6 or 7 wins, because that's what an objective observer might call reasonable based on the depth chart and schedule?

C&F hasn't given up on Spurrier yet. But the dreams of the Gamecocks heading to Atlanta for anything more than the Peach Bowl could begin to fade without a surprising performance this year.