Spurrier, South Carolina Candidates For College Football Playoffs
By Dan Harralson
Steve Spurrier is eyeing greatness that will ultimately separate himself into a category behind only one person.
Bear Bryant won 14 total SEC championships at Alabama and Kentucky, which clearly places him above all other SEC coaches in conference history.
Who's next in line? That would be South Carolina’s Spurrier, tied with Johnny Vaught and Vince Dooley with six SEC titles apiece. Spurrier's seventh SEC championship will place him runner-up to the legendary Bryant. There’s a chance the Gamecocks’ head coach may have the opportunity to move into second place all by himself this season.
Can Spurrier actually win the conference in 2014? The answer is yes.
I sat down with Lauren Boatright whom covers the Gamecocks for SEC Writer and she explains why South Carolina could have a season to remember.
"I truly believe this is South Carolina's year," Boatright said.
Under Spurrier, the Gamecocks have been able to reel in talent that they have not been able to land previously. Spurrier has changed that with the ability to bring in top prospects off the recruiting trail. Some of the pieces are now removed from the collegiate game and will have to be replaced – but it should not be a problem for Spurrier.
"There's a lot of doubt in South Carolina's ability without Connor Shaw and Jadeveon Clowney," Boatright said. "The effects from Clowney's departure will be minimal, other than sudden play changes from opposing teams. The names Mike Davis, Shon Carson, David Williams and Brandon Wilds will be household names.
"Keeping new quarterback Dylan Thompson's interceptions at a minimum and converting on third down will be the key in taking the conference title home. And if the Gamecocks can protect the ball, while keeping the red zone touchdown percentage up, the Gamecocks could be spending a weekend in Arlington, in 2015."
Boatright is not the only media member out there that feels South Carolina could win the conference, as well as making an appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
After dissecting the SEC in a whole during SEC Media Days last week, my own conclusion included the Gamecocks to be Atlanta-bound, as well as a trip to the inaugural college football playoff. However, I am not as generous to place South Carolina in Arlington, as I only have the Gamecocks making it to New Orleans in a two/three seed game against Ohio State.
Why South Carolina Can Win SEC East
Spurrier finally gets a break in the conference schedule. His two SEC West opponents this year are Texas A&M, opening weekend, and at Auburn.
The Auburn game could very well be the only loss South Carolina endures this season – but the Gamecocks can still win the SEC east in this scenario.
More than likely, Spurrier would face the Iron Bowl winner in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game. I picked Alabama to win the SEC West, but I also like Spurrier's chances against Nick Saban in the SEC Championship Game. The 'Ole Ball Coach is one of the few head coaches to have continued success versus Saban – being 5-2 in his career versus the four-time national champion.
Picking The Playoff
Well South Carolina has already been unveiled in the pigskin prognostications – so who's next?
Alabama could lose in the SEC Championship Game, but with only one loss could still make the College Football Playoff as a four seed.
This is where I have the Crimson Tide playing the one-seed and defending national champion Florida State Seminoles in Pasadena. This matchup was supposed to happen in this very same stadium, the Rose Bowl, a year ago, but a “kick-six” in the Iron Bowl negated the matchup.
On to Arlington and the national championship game.
Unlike Lauren's feeling of South Carolina's potential appearance at Jerry's World, I have Urban Meyer and Nick Saban squaring off again — and I like for Saban to finish where he left off from dismantling the former Florida coach. So another Saban national championship that could be quirky – but it could quite possibly happen again. Splitting the 2003 title with USC while at LSU, needing an Oklahoma State unforeseeable loss to happen to rematch LSU in 2011, and of course Oregon and Kansas State going down on the same night in late November 2012 following the loss to Johnny Football.
It could just be another episode of “As Saban Turns” – winning another national championship, somehow some way.
Other Possible Playoff Teams
Ohio State is hungry and wants to bounce back after back-to-back season-ending losses, just like Alabama. Having Braxton Miller back to run Meyer's system also helps to go through the easier Big Ten schedule.
An easier schedule is what separates Ohio State from teams such as Baylor, Oklahoma, Oregon and even Stanford for that matter.
Oklahoma is talented and coming off strong momentum after beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but can the Sooners get the Baylor monkey off their back? On the flip-side, if Baylor beats Oklahoma again, can Baylor put together a good enough defense to run the table for a Playoff run?
The questions go for Oregon and Stanford, as well. How will Oregon react when they finally line up against teams that actually play defense, like Stanford? Their track record is not worthy of placing them as a top four team, neither is Stanford. The Cardinal has the ability to hand it to the Ducks again, but they also have a track record of losing games they are not supposed too – which makes Ohio State a safer pick.
If any of these teams want a realistic shot at the College Football Playoff with a loss, then they will need a Michigan State type team to knock off the Buckeyes. We shall see if Michigan State can repeat their 2013 magic — which may be hard to do.
For a complete breakdown of SEC Media Days, click here.