SEC Game of the Week 9/29/07

Bowling Anyone?
Mississippi State at South Carolina

September 24, 2007
By Bob Epling

Legend says it once was practiced as a symbolic casting out of demons.

No, not Jackie Sherrill castrating a bull in Starkville; Martin Luther bowling in Germany.

That’s right, Martin Luther, the father of Protestantism, inspirer of the Reformation, liked bowling.

Seems the aisle separating church pews made a nice lane. Church members would roll a ball down the aisle and knock down wooden pins. An accurate toss smashed and scattered the pins, symbolically casting devilish spirits from the sanctuary.

Kind of similar to SEC fans hurling whiskey bottles at a visiting Steve Spurrier as he leaves the stadium.

Oh, just kidding. Save the emails. I know Jackie Sherrill and Steve Spurrier should never be mentioned in the same article with Martin Luther.

Anyway, we are talking about modern bowling – college football style – and both the teams in our SEC game of the week need to cast out some demons on that subject.

South Carolina won the whopping total of one bowl game in the 20th century (the famous Carquest Bowl victory over West Virginia in 1995 – you remember don’t you?).

The Gamecocks have won three since 2000, in locations as exotic as Jacksonville, Memphis, and Shreveport. Hey, I love those cities, but you must admit it’s not quite the same as Bourbon Street, Pasadena, or South Beach.

In sum, South Carolina is 4-9 in bowl games, highlighted by Outback-to-Outback bowl victories over Ohio State in 2001 and 2002 with Lou Holtz at the helm.

Mississippi State has fared slightly better.

The Bulldogs went 5-6 in bowls in the 20th century, but boast a couple of Orange Bowl appearances. Remember the tough 13-12 loss to Dusquesne in 1937? No … well, certainly the 1941 14-7 win over Georgetown still rings a cowbell for you.

Altogether, State is 6-6 in bowls.

MSU’s last bowl appearance, a 43-41 Independence Bowl thriller over Texas A&M in 2000, was probably the school’s most memorable. That game was played in snow up to Jackie Sherrill’s Newberry knife, and the white State uniforms blended in so well with the blizzard that Jackie should have pulled the hidden ball trick.

Oh, maybe that’s what he was trying with the bull.

The 2007 bowling aspirations of these teams is – to quote one of my favorite college professors – exactly the same only a little bit different.

Steve Spurrier hopes to win the SEC East and play for a BCS bid.

Sylvester Croom hopes to win three more games and be bowl bid eligible.

For Spurrier, the Gamecocks probably need to win out against a schedule that includes road games at Tennessee and Arkansas, and home games with State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, and Florida. Unlikely, though not impossible.

For Croom, home games with UAB and arch-rival Ole Miss represent the two most likely victory opportunities. That leaves State needing one more from a list that includes trips to Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas, and other home dates with Tennessee and Alabama. Tough to see many wins on that schedule, but finding three total is not impossible.

This game features two of the stouter defenses in the league, so expect points to be at a premium.

State’s rushing game has come on with Anthony Dixon and Christian Ducre carrying the load. Based on his first name, Duchre particularly would seem to be in line for a nice game in a contest with bowling implications.

Get it?

Carolina could not run the ball at all against LSU last week, but who has? Spurrier has anointed Chris Smelley to start at QB over Blake Mitchell and we’ll see if the head ball coach decides to air it out.

Both coaches are the sons of preachers, so neither should have an advantage with the man upstairs.

Wonder if either bowls?

Enjoy the game.

Game Ball: South Carolina

Quote: “Our guys hung in there and kept playing … regardless of (how) hopeless it looked there for a while.” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier after losing to LSU.

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