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September 7, 2007
Olin's Mailbag: Reason for hope
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. This week he heads to the Heartland for the big Miami-Oklahoma game.
August 31: Bull market
August 24: Fight at the top
August 17: Dreams of youth
August 11: The cost of losing
In July 1969, Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. In November that year, South Carolina clinched its first football conference championship.
Thus the startling realization that man walked on the moon before the Gamecocks could win a championship.
Perhaps even more startling is that after '69, Americans walked on the moon five more times before apparently losing interest in lunar strolls, but the Gamecocks - who traditionally enter the field to the theme of "2001: A Space Odyssey" - haven't won another football title.
"The history (at South Carolina) is not that super-duper," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said last month. "In '69 South Carolina won the ACC. That's the only championship in 110 years of football."
At least part of that can be explained away by noting that in 1971, South Carolina left the Atlantic Coast Conference and competed as an independent before joining the Southeastern Conference in 1992.
In those 21 years, South Carolina endured eight losing seasons and managed more than eight victories just once - in 1984, when a loss to Navy (Navy?) prevented them from a first-ever No. 1 ranking.
But Spurrier has given Gamecocks fans hope. Last season, he led South Carolina to an 8-5 finish that included a Liberty Bowl victory over Houston - just the fourth bowl triumph in school history. This season, he has been outspoken about South Carolina's ambition of winning the SEC.
"We've raised our goals this year," Spurrier said. "We're going to try to win the conference. We felt like we've really increased our talent level at South Carolina. We feel our talent level is good enough now we should say, 'Hey, let's go try to win our conference championship.' "
Normally, that might seem overly ambitious for South Carolina, but when one of the most successful coaches in college football history says it, you have to listen.
South Carolina fans certainly did, and they've looked forward to this season more than any in recent memory. Could this really be the season the Gamecocks shoot for the moon? Or are they destined to just be left seeing stars again?
Let's check this week's mailbag for answers.
Will South Carolina compete for the SEC championship this year?
— Matt in Dillon, SC
Compete? Yes. Contend? We'll see.
It could have been worse
I understand that Notre Dame just got whipped at home, but there were some positives. Do you see Jimmy Clausen and the other impact freshmen having a bigger role in the game Saturday against Penn State? What do you think the difference in the game will be?
— Jimmie in Atlanta
Believe it or not, there were indeed some positives for the Irish in last week's 33-3 loss to Georgia Tech.
Some people picked Kansas to lose against Central Michigan last week. After the Jayhawks' 52-7 rout, do you think they have a shot at being a legit team in the Big 12 North?
— Kraft in Kansas
Hey, I'll admit to Kansas fans everywhere that I was among those that picked against the Jayhawks last week. Kansas' pass defense ranked last in the nation in 2006, and the Jayhawks started a true freshman cornerback against CMU quarterback Dan LeFevour, who threw for 3,031 yards last season.
What is up with Nebraska's lack of press in the Big 12 championship chase? First, the media picks Missouri to win the North (would be shocked if that happened). Second, it seems that they are all but giving the league title to Oklahoma or Texas. Nebraska is not mentioned even though they basically gave the win to Texas last year with a less-talented Huskers squad. I think this year's team will give any team in the South Division a run for their money. Where's the love?
— Chad in Omaha
Rivals.com picked Nebraska to win the Big 12 North. The media from cities that cover the Big 12 on a daily basis picked Missouri.
One of the TV experts said he expects an upset (Boise State over Washington). What? I know the game is at Washington and Washington has improved, but wouldn't Boise be favored? Who do you pick and why?
— Loren in Seattle
Boise State is a three-point favorite, so it certainly wouldn't - or shouldn't - be considered an upset if the Broncos win Saturday in Seattle.
Is DeSean Jackson from Cal the premier game-breaker in college football?
— Louis in Las Vegas
Anyone who saw Jackson's 77-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee probably would think so. I was in the stadium when he broke off that run, and I was certainly impressed.
Olin Buchanan is the senior national college football writer for Rivals.com. To send him a question or comment for his Friday Mailbag, click here.