After all the distasteful recruiting talk the past couple of weeks in the SEC, I feel a breeze of fresh air. Its an easterly wind blowing out of South Carolina. It smells of Palmetto, tailgating and maybe a nip or two of bourbon
The Gamecocks are going to the SEC Championship game on December 4th in Atlanta. The Gamecocks, who havent won a football title since 1969--and that one was an ACC championship. The Gamecocks, who have always been known more for their team introduction music than for their play (Insert Theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey here). The Gamecocks, who were 0-12 at the Swamp until Steve Spurriers Gamecocks won in the stadium he nicknamed. South Carolina is going to play this years dominant SEC team, the Auburn Tigers.
More than 2,000 fans showed up at 2am Sunday morning to welcome the team home from Florida and Monday bought up all the 15, 900 tickets available for the Georgia Dome Title game.
The HBC--head ball coach for the uninitiated--is within one upset of winning his 7th SEC title as a head coach. That would move him past Vince Dooley and Johnny Vaught on the all time list--behind only The Bear, with 14. Also, Spurrier would join Nick Saban as the only coach since the advent of the Championship Game to win titles at two difference schools. How many times have you heard the phrase, washed up associated with Spurrier the past 8 years? Well...
But enough about the HBC. Lets talk team. The whole attitude changed when a young man named Marcus Lattimore was added to the roster. A true freshman, native South Carolinian from Duncans Byrnes High School, Lattimore is the battering ram at the head of the Gamecocks' assault. So far, 14 touchdowns and 964 yards rushing to go with 2 more receiving. Its the Lattimore running game--40 carries to beat Florida last week--that opens up the passing game with quarterback Stephen Garcia and wide out Alshon Jeffrey. And by the way--all three are expected back next year.
Ellis Johnson coaches the South Carolina defense and theyve been just good enough to get the job done this year. Better against the run than the pass, the D will be sorely tested by Newtons gravity.
Not only will South Carolina fans have something to be proud of, so will the SEC. The story lines for the title game will no doubt continue to be about Cam Newtons eligibility and NCAA investigation, but so will the story be about Newton versus Lattimore, South Carolina and Auburn instead of Florida and Alabama. And maybe most of all, the return to the headlines for the HBC, Steve Spurrier. Ill have more to say about Auburn and their great season and Gene Chiziks great coaching job before the game, but for now, join me and all those Gamecock fans in celebrating one of college footballs feel good stories of 2010.