It's a little bit difficult to remember how long Steve Spurrier's been doing this for South Carolina. The former Florida quarterback and head ball coach is now entering his eighth season in Columbia, making him the third longest-tenured coach in the program's history behind Rex Enright (15 seasons) and Paul Dietzel (9) -- and Enright was his own boss.
Spurrier's been around long enough to know in detail the history that he's attempting to overcome. Whereas he once had to wonder whether something was a first for the Gamecocks, he now knows. And he can rattle off the foreboding statistics that every South Carolina fan knows by heart.
Historically, when South Carolina's had some good years in the past, we fell flat on our face the second year.
Spurrier brought up the 10-2 season back in 1984, the only one before last year's 11-victory campaign that featured double-digit wins, and pointed out that the Gamecocks had a losing record the next season -- 5-6. Of course, Spurrier's labeling of this as "the second year" hints that it might be more of a motivational ploy and trying to lower expectations than anything else. After all, his team went 9-5 and won the SEC East in 2010, and the 20-7 run the Gamecocks are now on is the best in their history.
The deja vu that South Carolina most needs to worry about is a reprisal of the fourth season of Lou Holtz's tenure. South Carolina was coming off a bowl win against a traditional power from the Big Ten and a 17-7 stretch that was the best run in the school's history. Sound familiar? Long-suffering Gamecocks fans re not exactly out of the woods yet.
And even as they talked about the renewed confidence they had from a year that brought South Carolina's highest win total and postseason ranking and first sweep of the SEC East, the players seemed to at least toe the official line on next season.
"It felt incredible after the clock hit zero after that game," quarterback Connor Shaw said of the Capital One Bowl win, "but it just creates higher expectations this season."
How high? So high that a reporter who pointed out in a post-speech gaggle with Spurrier that a conference championship could bring a berth in the national title game wasn't laughed out the room. But Spurrier at least pretended to brush off the possibility, pointing to the difficulty of the schedule.
The one thing he didn't say was no. But then again, he knows the long odds he faces if history is any guide.