SEC, baby, SEC!

Thursday night – the night college football fans have longed for – is just around the corner, and excitement is building throughout the SEC nation. For the next, oh, 11 weeks or so, we’ll be bitter rivals. Then, when push comes to shove, we’ll band together in hopes that an SEC team takes the national title. It’s the way we roll.

Our dreams have come to fruition in four of the past five years, proving what I’ve always said: If you want to play in the SEC, you’d better put on your big boy pants. The SEC is undeniably, indisputably the toughest conference in the NCAA – and teams with middling SEC records can whip the tar out of the top guns from other conferences.

Don’t believe me? Just ask Clemson fans. Their ACC-champion team headed home with their Tiger tails between their legs last fall after a good, old-fashioned spanking by my beloved Gamecocks.

The Great Bet: money on the line

Speaking of the ‘Cocks, this is the second year of The Great Bet. My husband, Bruce (a smug Texas Longhorn), has repeatedly assured me that USC is a confirmed middle-of-the-packer. But I say he’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

We put our (non-existent) money where our mouths are. Here’s the wager: If my Gamecocks win the SEC championship in any of the next four years, he owes me $5,000 in good, spendable cash. If my team wins the national championship in any of those years, he owes me double: $10,000. The original bet was for five years, but things didn’t work out in my favor last season.

It’s worth noting that I tried to collect a few months ago, when USC won the national championship in baseball. Bruce adamantly maintained, however, that the bet was involved football only. (He’s right. I was trying to pull a fast one. Hey, a girl’s got to try, right?)

Expert musings

Doug Jolley, football beat writer for gamecockanthem.com, believes Hotelgate – the scandal involving USC players who supposedly received reduced rates at Columbia’s Whitney Hotel, in violation of NCAA rules – will work out OK if the players are able to zero-out their bills. Coach Steve Spurrier must be of like mind: At last word, he didn’t plan to sit them out. The exception is Weslye Saunders, the starting tight end who compounded his living-arrangement woes by attending a swank Miami party that’s the center of NCAA scrutiny, as well as by lying to coaches about why he was late to practice.

Chuck Little, another veteran Carolina fan, is still seething about USC’s embarrassing bowl outing. (The less said about that humiliation, the better.) He’s not holding out much hope for a great year, noting that our rushing production was woeful last season, the defense faltered in the stretch and our special teams were inconsistent when covering kick-offs and punts.

“If they execute on both sides of the ball, they have a chance,” Chuck says. “But they have to do that first, or we’ll be asking the age-old question after week five: ‘When does baseball season start?’ “


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