Early losses for USC, Clemson could be a big win for Coastal

col-tbuzz (2)For avid South Carolina and Clemson fans, the college football season didn’t even last past Week 1 before both of their hopes for a national title all but went up in flames.

South Carolina’s 52-28 demolition at the hands of Texas A&M, followed by Clemson’s 45-21 manhandling by Georgia, sank both Palmetto State powers in the polls and basically set a mandate that they run the table the rest of the way to have any chance of making the new four-team national playoff, which was the goal and expectation of their respective fans.

It’s the dirty duality of college football, even in the post-BCS format. After posting a series of 11-win seasons, both teams have raised the level of expectations to the point that a season-opening loss feels like a season-ending defeat.The same schedule fans looked at last week and envisioned an undefeated season crashed and burned upon take-off, leaving an empty feeling inside and a tendency to pack it in for the season.

South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney have their hands full for the weeks ahead of them. How do you motivate a team that had high hopes for a successful season and have already seem a big part of that dream smashed to piece. They have to rebuild their team’s mental makeup from the ground up and hope for a reversal of fortunes, which might be tougher than rebuilding a losing program into a winner.

Sure, either team could surprisingly run the table and get back in the national championship picture, with a little help from the top contenders. O course, they can’t both win out since they close the regular season against one another, but with schedules that include a run through the SEC for the Gamecocks and a date with No. 1 Florida State for the Tigers, odds are they are looking at a mid-level bowl bid at year’s end.

The dark clouds of those defeats did have one silver lining in one part of the state – the Grand Strand, where Coastal Carolina is suddenly the Palmetto State’s best chance to bring home a national title. The No. 4-ranked Chanticleers knocked off The Citadel 31-16, not as impressive in terms of the point spread but enough to keep their title hopes alive.

The Chants have an opportunity to not only make some noise on the national stage, but also gain some respect in their own state, where most fans are either garnet or orange. Now teal could be the trendy color if CCU and miracle worker Joe Moglia continue to surprise naysayers. Hopefully the opportunity comes with a larger and more enthusiastic fan base to help Coastal reach the next level.

In a state where there’s plenty of support to go around, Coastal could earn a larger slice of the pie with a run to the FCS championship. It looks like they may be carrying an entire state’s worth of hopes with them.

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