This is not the old South Carolina

The Gamecocks have come a long way under the guidance of Steve Spurrier. There have been some bumps along the road but he has the Gamecocks in the national championship talk and that should tell you right there that this is not the old South Carolina.

Year after year, the Gamecocks have shown that they are team that is on the cusp of greatness only to falter down the stretch.

Look at a few of Steve Spurrier's early years at South Carolina.

In 2007, South Carolina got off to a hot start. The Gamecocks started the season 3-0, including a victory over Georgia, and fell to eventual national champion LSU on the road in a hard fought game 28-16. The Gamecocks won the next three games to increase their record to 6-1 on the year and all the way up to the number six ranking in the country.

Good times were on the horizon, or so it seemed, for South Carolina.

A five game losing streak ended the Gamecocks season at 6-6 and failed to make a bowl appearance that season.

The 2008 season saw the Gamecocks get to 7-3 on the year before three straight losses, including a 56-6 blowout at Florida, to fall to 7-6 with the lopsided defeat in the Outback Bowl. Steve Spurrier nearly retired after that game as he felt like things would never get off the ground.

Spurrier, though, decided to stick around thanks to increased recruiting and opportunities he saw in the SEC East and the Gamecocks started taking off from there.

Optimism was around the program in 2009, despite a 7-6 season, because of freshman talents like Alshon Jeffery and Stephon Gilmore. In 2010, Marcus Lattimore entered the picture and South Carolina proceeded to win their first SEC East division title. The 2011 season featured a quarterback change, injury to Marcus Lattimore and other obstacles yet South Carolina finished with the greatest season ever by going 11-2 with a dominant performance in the Capital One Bowl over Nebraska.

It appeared that this was starting to look, and feel, like Steve Spurrier expected from the start when he signed on to take on the huge challenge that was the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The 2012 season entered with a lot of optimism from those around the program. This team finally had the pieces in place to continue sustained success but the focus was always on one game at a time. Focus on getting better each week and tackling the task at hand.

The dreams were nearly washed away when South Carolina went on the road to face-off against Vanderbilt. South Carolina came back in the fourth quarter, and survived a late pass breakup in the closing minutes, to help solidify a tough 17-13 win. Questions arose about this being the same South Carolina that people have seen for years.

Where they ready to handle these expectations? Could they get over the "hump" in the SEC and become a championship-level team?

The answer to that question is yes.

The win over the then-ranked number five Georgia Bulldogs has silenced the doubters across the nation and now have the Gamecocks firmly in the national championship talk. You look at the rankings today and see South Carolina in the number three spot behind Alabama and Oregon. You listen to the national media talk about how South Carolina has a team that is capable of competing for national championship and you start to think, "Is this for real?"

I know the words South Carolina and national championship have hardly ever gone together in the same sentence. For something that seemed like a dream in a far off land is now a reality.

This is what South Carolina football has become. They are a team, and a university, to be reckoned with in the immediate future. Up next comes the next game in a stretch of Top 10 matchups for South Carolina at the intimidating environment Death Valley, home of the LSU Tigers.

In years past, most people would chalk this up as an instant loss for South Carolina.

Not anymore.

As Marcus Lattimore said after the game, "It's not the old South Carolina. We can play with y'all. We can play with anybody."

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