Spurrier vs. Corso: Who wins?
It has been a hotly-debated topic ever since ESPN College Gameday analyst Lee Corso opined that, even with Steve Spurrier, South Carolina wouldn't win an SEC title or national title "in 400 years."
Aside from the "400 years" comment, was he right? Can Spurrier win an SEC crown at South Carolina?
Corso had two forces working against each other, and he went with the one that held more historical weight than the other. Yes, Spurrier had gone and won at Duke, of all places. But Corso took the immovable object of South Carolina's long, storied history of losing over Spurrier's irresistible force of coaching teams up.
Three years in, Corso looks to be sitting pretty. The Gamecocks went bowl-less last season, collapsing down the stretch after a promising start that included a road win at everyone's late-season darling, Georgia.
So what's been the problem, and who will win out in the end?
Well, starting with last year, the main problem was the loss of middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. Before his injury, the Gamecock defense was certainly adequate. Afterward, it was anything but. It can be argued that Brinkley's injury was the single most influential loss for any team in the league last year.
But overall, Spurrier's defenses have been sound. What's been most disconcerting has been Spurrier's inability to find a quarterback that can make his offense be, well, Spurrier-like.
Obviously, that's partly because, for the most part, South Carolina's offensive lines have been porous. But even so, one would expect Spurrier's offenses to be a little more prolific.
One gets the sense that this season represents a crossroads for Spurrier's time in Columbia. He has handed playcalling duties over to his son, Steve Spurrier Jr., and the Gamecocks' situation at quarterback is no better four years into his tenure than they were when he arrived. His top two options at the position, Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher, combined to throw eight interceptions in the spring game. The most talented quarterback on his roster, Stephen Garcia, has been mired in off-the-field incidents and needs to put those behind him before he can challenge for the job.
So what does it add up to? Spurrier cannot afford to miss a bowl again, especially since Clemson is poised to have its best season in years and the Tigers appear to be having much more success on the recruiting trail. This program needs positive momentum in the worst way. Winning the SEC East, frankly, is not a realistic goal for the program this fall. The Gamecocks need to purge the memory of last season's collapse with a winning season to build for next year and beyond.
So will Corso be proven correct? At this time, his chances look good. But overall, one has to believe he will be proven wrong for several reasons. For one, Spurrier is likely to have a longer leash in Columbia than others. In other words, even if he doesn't produce success in the short term, he will likely get more opportunities because of his history.
Also, as loaded as programs like Georgia, Florida and Tennessee can be from year-to-year, each will have a down spell from time to time. Spurrier already owns a win over each, so it's not as if his teams have been dominated by the iron of the division so far.
But the final and most compelling reason for one to believe Corso will be proven incorrect is college football history. Corso may have thought at the time of his statement that it was on his side because of South Carolina's losing tradition, but it is not.
If we've learned anything about college football, we've learned that bold proclamations about eternal failure for any program will usually be refuted at some point. Programs like Virginia Tech, Florida State and Miami went from afterthoughts to powerhouses under the right direction, and more recent reclamation projects at places like Kansas and Rutgers have also begun to take shape.
Are we to believe, then, that South Carolina is somehow worse off than those programs were, that something that has happened over and over again in the annals of the sport is now an impossibility in Columbia?
Far from it. It may not be this year, but at some point in his career at South Carolina, Spurrier will give Corso some Gamecock crow to chew on, and it won't take 400 years to get to his plate.
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