Here’s an equation that should twist everyone’s mind into a sailor’s hitch: SEC East down = Spurs Up.
You’re not hallucinating. South Carolina can win the SEC’s slapstick division, a development that would be equal parts stunning and incredible, unbelievable and fitting. Sandstorm Nation might sweep into Atlanta on Dec. 3 for a date in the conference title game, likely against Alabama or Auburn, and force pundits to eat crow about the Gamecocks during the annual dance at the Georgia Dome.
South Carolina would be the champion the SEC East deserves.
Bask in the bad. Celebrate the sorry. Give a big, tight hug to the horrendous.
At this point, why not root for a 6-way tie in the SEC East that would send South Carolina to the conference title game? Why not pull for a wild, wicked finish that would expose how awful the division has become?
Sure, the chances of a Gamecocks berth in the SEC championship game are slim. Understanding their road to Atlanta requires a creative imagination and an advanced degree in physics. But the fact that they’re alive this late at 5-4 overall with a 3-4 mark in conference play is remarkable and terrible at the same time.
Coach Will Muschamp deserves credit. There were cackles in the offseason, with some pundits envisioning an 0-6 plummet out of the gates in the Palmetto State. Those voices viewed Muschamp as a boring retread choice to lead a program coming off a year in which Steve Spurrier bailed early and South Carolina won 3 games. The cupboard in Columbia looked beyond bare.
Who’s laughing now?
There was the victory against Vanderbilt to start the season. There was the recovery after falling to 2-4, a stumble that included losses to Mississippi State, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Georgia. There was the stunning triumph against Tennessee on Oct. 29 that transformed Vols coach Butch Jones’ world into a Tilt-A-Whirl. There was the methodical dispatching of Missouri last Saturday. There was the recent emergence of true-freshman quarterback Jake Bentley, who’s old enough to consider prom-date choices instead of prepping for SEC defenses.
Now Muschamp is a victory against Florida on Saturday and a few fallen dominoes from planting South Carolina’s flag into the barren desert that is the SEC East, a thought that would have seemed like a knee-slapper a month ago.
Still, the praise extends only so far.
The Gamecocks would be the perfect SEC East champions because they’re a quality embodiment of the division as a whole this year: flawed, uninspiring and a dwarf compared with the SEC West’s Goliaths.
South Carolina ranks last in the conference in scoring offense, averaging 19.2 points per game. The Gamecocks are last in rushing offense, averaging 120 yards per game. They’re ninth in passing offense, averaging 210.6 yards per game. They’re fifth in scoring defense, allowing 21.2 points per game. But how could anyone expect them to contain Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts or Auburn’s punishing ground attack?
Yet don’t let facts and assumptions prevent you from rooting for a rousing end to the SEC East’s wretched year.
If you’re going to be bad, don’t be a bore.
If you’re going to be pathetic, don’t be predictable.
That’s why South Carolina has a chance to salvage the SEC East. Florida might present the best test for the SEC West champion, but the Gamecocks would be more interesting. Kentucky might offer more intrigue, but the Gamecocks stumbling onto the SEC’s grand stage would be compelling television. Tennessee might offer more talent, but the Gamecocks would be like the annoying uncle who crashes a family gathering with a bottle of vodka in hand after others refused to extend an invite.
Wouldn’t it seem right?
Wouldn’t it be glorious?
Sometimes, total folly represents the best possible outcome. South Carolina’s presence in Atlanta would mean the SEC East ended in a mangled wreck, a result the division has earned after so much uninspiring play this season.
Someone, somehow, must win the SEC East. We might as well be entertained along the way.