Before the season started, very few of us thought that South Carolina would be 3-6 right now (or, for that matter, that Steve Spurrier would resign mid-season). About as many people thought that the Florida Gators would have at least a shot at a New Year's Six bowl, let alone win the SEC East title. And I doubt we thought we'd be talking about the #1 Clemson Tigers.
Yet here we are. The Gators are 8-1 after barely beating Vanderbilt, and the Tigers are 9-0 and a four-game winning streak away (Wake Forest, Syracuse, South Carolina and presumably North Carolina in the ACC Championship) from a trip to the Orange Bowl in Florida.
But, even with the Gamecocks in a position to shake up the College Football Playoff standings with a chance to take down #10 and #1 (as of last week's rankings), Shawn Elliott's downplaying things, as you may well imagine.
"Those teams that would say, ‘Let’s go play spoiler,’ that’s kind of a joke to me. Our goal is to win football games," Elliott said during his weekly news conference. "Spoiler hasn’t come up. Shouldn’t come up."
Well, sure. He's supposed to say that. He's the head coach of the football team, and his job is to get his team to win. But trust me. Most all Gamecocks fans will be thinking of the fact that if their team defeats Florida and/or Clemson, those two teams can say goodbye to their playoff hopes (more dim for the Gators; much brighter for the Tigers).
So what are the Gamecocks' chances of winning those games? At this point, I'd say slim to none. However, I'd also say that the Gators are much more ripe for an upset than the Tigers are. Granted, Vandy has a much better defense than they're being given credit for (they held Western Kentucky, one of the highest-scoring teams in the country, to just 14 points in the season opener. That offense, though...), but I think the odds of the Gamecocks beating the Gators on Saturday are slightly greater than them being Clemson on November 28. (Again, neither will happen, but that's just my viewpoint.) They have nothing to lose. Sure, there's the question of bowl eligibility (and they might, just might, get in with five wins - which they should get to by beating The Citadel on November 21), but this team had chances to get into position to make a bowl this season but didn't.
To summarize, as much as Shawn Elliott wants to treat this as "just another game", it's not. He knows what's at stake for his opponent on Saturday and certainly what's at stake for his opponent on November 28. And if one or both of those games somehow end up in the Gamecocks' favor, it will be a bright spot in a season that hasn't had a lot of them and a damaging black mark on the resumes of two playoff hopefuls.