South Carolina Football: Gamecocks, Gators Set for College Gameday Rematch

William RenkenCorrespondent IIIOctober 16, 2012

October 13, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver Bruce Ellington (23) jumps over LSU Tigers safety Craig Loston (6) as he carries the ball during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE
Crystal Logiudice-US PRESSWIRE

South Carolina's loss to LSU in Baton Rouge might have knocked the Gamecocks out of the No. 3 ranking in the country, but it certainly wasn't the death knell for their season. In fact, if there was a game on the schedule that they could afford to lose right now, it might have been against the Tigers.

Nevertheless, the margin for error is now at zero for South Carolina as it travels down to Gainesville to take on the No. 4 Florida Gators. The game can put the winner in the driver's seat for the SEC East title.

Florida is undefeated overall, and South Carolina has one loss in the SEC. But with the Gamecocks having already beaten Georgia, beating Florida on Saturday in the backdrop of ESPN's College GameDay would put South Carolina in prime position to make the trip to Atlanta to compete for the SEC Championship.

Sounds familiar. Sounds very familiar from 11 years ago, in fact.

November 10, 2001. Columbia, S.C. The first time South Carolina hosted College GameDay. Head coach Lou Holtz, in his third year, had the No. 15 Gamecocks in outside contention for the SEC East while Steve Spurrier had No. 3 Florida in contention for a possible national championship.

Coming in with two SEC losses, the Gamecocks needed a victory over Florida and a couple of Tennessee stumbles in order to magically make the SEC championship game after being only two seasons removed from being winless and a college football punchline.

Even reading that again, you can see the naivety oozing through the pores of unrealistic expectations. But hey, it was 2001. Everybody has to dream, right?

Despite the Blackout support for the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium and a 10-10 score at the end of the first quarter, Florida proceeded to outscore South Carolina 44-7 to finish with a 54-17 rout of the Gamecocks.

Not to mention the fact that a very good Tennessee team beat the same Gators a couple of weeks later and never really seemed to stumble until their loss to LSU in the SEC championship.

But a lot has changed in 11 years.

The Ol' Ball Coach still has his visor, only it has changed from blue and orange to garnet and black. And the forecast for South Carolina to get back to the top of the SEC East looks much more realistic.

And let's face it, it's a much better South Carolina team than the one in 2001.

But it's once again a very nationally charged game, just as the last two weeks have been against Georgia and LSU. And it's one that South Carolina cannot afford to drop at this point in the season.

The 2001 game in Columbia was a nice novelty for South Carolina, an exciting accomplishment in the midst of their previous dismal seasons. And certainly a case of just being excited to be at the prom instead being the prom king.

There cannot be any satisfaction for Spurrier and company in anything other than winning in Gainesville on Saturday, and everybody knows that. It's not a profound revelation by any means.

But that 2001 team was two weeks removed from a seven-point loss to Tennessee before playing Florida. The 2012 team is one week removed from a two-point loss to LSU. Similar circumstances but hopefully not the same 54-17 result.

And hopefully, just as LSU came out with a little extra fire in its belly after losing to Florida, South Carolina will do the same after its loss to the Tigers. Regardless, the college football world will have its eyes on the 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff in Gainesville on Saturday afternoon.