USC’s jump to No. 3 in the nation in both major polls has many – including coach Steve Spurrier – wondering about the Gamecocks’ chances of attaining the highest ranking in the history of the program – which would be No. 1.
After pounding Georgia 35-7 Saturday night before a record crowd at Williams-Brice Stadium, the Gamecocks are No. 3 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll and coaches’ poll behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oregon. They moved up from No. 6 after No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 LSU as well as No. 5 Georgia lost.
That’s just one spot below the loftiest perch ever for the program. The 1984 team was ranked No. 2 for a week before losing to Navy 38-21.
Spurrier said he hopes his team can have a longer stay in the rarified air of the Top 3, but he knows it’s not going to be easy. The Gamecocks play at No. 9 LSU on Saturday before traveling to No. 4 Florida the following week. And they must finish the regular season on the road against their arch-rival, No. 16 Clemson.
“There are still six games left and all kind of bad stuff can still happen to a lot of teams,” Spurrier said. “I would say we probably have the toughest schedule of those other (undefeated) teams, I would guess. But time will tell. We certainly like where we are right now, but we’re smart enough to know it’s a difficult, difficult road for us.”
Alabama (5-0) plays its toughest remaining games against No. 19 Mississippi State, No. 9 LSU and No. 22 Texas A&M. The most difficult remaining opponents for Oregon (6-0) are No. 11 Southern Cal, No. 17 Stanford and No. 10 Oregon State.
Of the teams ranked just below the Gamecocks, No. 4 Florida (5-0) must still play South Carolina, No. 14 Georgia and No. 12 Florida State. Fifth-ranked West Virginia (5-0) must still play No. 6 Kansas State and No. 13 Oklahoma. Kansas State (5-0), in turn, must still play West Virginia and No. 15 Texas.
South Carolina has steadily climbed in the poll through its six wins. It began the season at No. 9 before making incremental steps to No. 8, No. 7 and then No. 6 over the course of three weeks in September. The Gamecocks made their biggest jump – three places – with their blowout of Georgia and are solidly entrenched at No. 3.
Of the AP poll’s 60 voters, 43 ranked them third, 11 ranked them fourth and four ranked them fifth. The other two votes provided South Carolina’s highest and lowest rankings: Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News ranked them No. 2, and Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune ranked them No. 6.
Miller, who ranks Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Ohio State and West Virginia ahead of the Gamecocks in his Top 10, knows that others might not agree with his assessment.
“Everyone else may be right,” said Miller, who covers Minnesota and the Big 10. He said Florida, Ohio State, West Virginia and South Carolina all had impressive wins this past weekend.
With nine unbeaten teams in the Top 10 halfway through the season – along with more matchups between the heavyweight teams to come – the rankings should continue to be shuffled. Alabama, the defending national champion, remains the consensus No. 1 on all 60 ballots in the AP poll.
“After that, you could flip a coin,” Miller said.
The coaches’ poll and the Harris poll (in which USC also is No. 3) count in the Bowl Championship Series standings, which will be released for the first time on Sunday.