SEC Football: The South Carolina Gamecocks and the Shifting SEC East

Paul CookContributor IIISeptember 12, 2011

ATHENS, GA - SEPTEMBER 10:  A general view of Sanford Stadium during the game between the Georgia Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks on September 10, 2011 in Athens, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In the 1950s, the concept of "nutrition" was fairly one-sided—red meat, potatoes, eggs, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes were thought to be pretty much all one needed to survive.  Anyone with more discriminating dietary requirements was thought to be either effete or a communist.

Even weirder to our modern sensibilities is the fact that football players in this era didn't put a lot of stock in lifting weights.  Some coaches, like Clemson's famed Frank Howard (of Howard's Rock), believed that regular weight lifting negatively affected players' flexibility and movement.  Go figure. 

Now just try to imagine a pot-bellied, scrawny-limbed Ray Lewis preaching the benefits of a steak and eggs breakfast with a cigarette dangling from his lips.

None of these crazy notions would fly nowadays, of course, but 50 short years ago they were seen as unquestionable dogma by a good many people, some of whom were not completely nuts.

The traditional thinking in the SEC has always been one-sided, too.  Ever since the early days of the nation's toughest conference, the movers and the shakers have been the traditional powerhouses: Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee. 

South Carolina and Arkansas, who joined the SEC in 1992, have at times had to fight to stay relevant in a conference that could probably give the teams of the NFC West a serious run for their money on any given Sunday.

After losing a close battle to South Carolina on Saturday evening, the Georgia Bulldogs have taken a lot of heat for going 0-2, and the predictable calls for Mark Richt's head have grown seemingly louder by the day.  At the same time, however, pundits and fans alike have been suspiciously quick to minimize the loss to South Carolina, arguing that the season is far from over and that everyone should just calm down. 

Indeed, in the closing moments of Saturday's telecast on ESPN, the announcers seemed far more concerned with how difficult this loss would be for Georgia than they were with congratulating an up-and-coming young football team on a hard-fought win in a decidedly hostile environment.

Old habits die hard, I suppose.  And the past often seems like a more comfortable place to dwell.  But we must not forget the inevitable march of time.  To all those who want to pretend that South Carolina's dramatic win on Saturday was some sort of anomaly, a fluke, a glitch in an otherwise smooth-functioning system, I say that that the ground beneath you just might be shifting.

Big changes happen slowly, whether we're talking about plate tectonics, paradigm shifts or the landscape of NCAA football.  Maybe South Carolina, a program mired in mediocrity and relative obscurity for most of their 119 year history, is finally moving into a place of prominence in the Eastern division of the SEC.