Hard as it might be to believe, we have reached the midpoint of the college football season for all of the SEC teams. We look at what's happened to each of them and where they might go from here.
So, South Carolina, what's it going to be?
After all, that's the question that has yet to be answered. The high point of the season has already passed -- the win against Alabama in Columbia -- but whether the low point has also passed is going to determine whether South Carolina will contend in the Steve Spurrier Era.
Because it's not going to be often that Florida loses to Mississippi State at the Swamp, Georgia begins the season 1-4 and Tennessee is being led by its third head coach in as many years. And if the Gamecocks can't break through and win their first SEC East title when all those things are going on, how in the world does Steve Spurrier's crew expect to accomplish it when they aren't getting all the breaks?
Here's what the old South Carolina would do: If Florida loses its game against Georgia or at Vanderbilt -- long shots, but so was a Mississippi State win in Gainesville -- the Gamecocks would lose one of its remaining three winnable games, then lose the Florida game, giving up a two-game lead that would have made the showdown in the Swamp meaningless. If Florida wins out until Nov. 13, the Gamecocks either lose all three games to knock themselves out of contention or win through the game with Florida and then lose in Gainesville by 20.
For a new Carolina, there is a chance at 10 wins by running the table against the remaining teams on the schedule. For the old Gamecocks, there is no guarantee of more than a five-win season, with a win at Troy paired with losses to all five remaining BCS opponents. (Even for the old Carolina, anything less than an eight-win season at this point would be a colossal disappointment.)
The definition of this South Carolina team will come in late October and November. Because the program has been here before. In 2000, Lou Holtz's team was 7-1, the only loss having been at unranked Alabama. (Talk about irony.) The Gamecocks lost to a then-unranked Tennessee team and were waxed at Florida to lose the division.
So the first home win against a No. 1 team is something to remember, but it's not something that's going to change the trajectory of the program -- unless it's followed up with a tangible title of some sort. Ask the basketball program, which defeated No. 1 Kentucky but didn't even make the NCAA tournament. And then ask the baseball team, which defeated the No. 1 team in the nation en route to winning a College World Series. You'll get different answers, and for good reason.
What's it going to be, South Carolina? Will it be a season with a memory, or a season full of memories? That's the only question left to answer.