It was another example of announcer hyperbole when Craig James pronounced that South Carolina must now be considered a Top 15 team. But it's hard to not take the Gamecocks seriously four games into the season.
So far, the Gamecocks have defeated a team expected to contend for the SEC West and almost won a road game against surprisingly good Georgia. South Carolina also claims a win against N.C. State in the sloppy first game of the year and a victory against Florida Atlantic that was too close for too long.
Yes, the win against Ole Miss on Thursday night was history. Never before had South Carolina defeated a Top 5 team at home, and only once in the program's more than 100 years of football had the Gamecocks accomplished the feat anywhere. That win had come 28 years ago.
But should Ole Miss even count toward that record? Based on Thursday's performance, the answer would have to be a resounding no. They were outgained by South Carolina 285-248 despite a 125-yard outburst in the fourth quarter. Jevan Snead was erratic all night long. The rushing game was almost nonexistent until late in the game.
To drive home the point about QB play: Which stat line belongs to Heism@n candidate Jevan Snead and which belongs to a banged up Stephen Garcia?
The set-up probably ruined it, but Quarterback A was Stephen Garcia and Quarteback B is Jevan Snead. Neither line represents an elite performance, but Garcia is a relatively green player just beginning to grasp his offense. Snead is supposed to be a veteran player leading a darkhorse national title candidate, though those dreams are probably over after this game.
This game will feed the perception that Houston Nutt consistently underperforms in the face of high expectations. In this case, at least, it's not entirely unfair. A team with any hopes of going to Atlanta in early December, forgetting Pasadena in January, has to be able to defeat South Carolina.
As far as the Gamecocks go, this just adds another befuddling data point to what has so far been a perplexing season. South Carolina controlled the game for the first three quarters before nearly coughing up the win as they have so many times before. And Ole Miss certainly helped make this a winnable game for the Gamecocks. But for now, this was the kind of win that Steve Spurrier needed to prove that he is doing more than simply making South Carolina consistently average. It's still a tough schedule, but suddenly an eight- or even nine-win season has gone from "wildly improbable" to "possible."
It's not time to put South Carolina in the Top 15 just yet. But for the first time in a couple of years, the idea didn't seem completely laughable.