You’ve got to love Steve Spurrier. Only the Ol’ Ball Coach could stir up such a hornet’s nest on an otherwise dull Sunday.
When asked about the South Carolina Gamecocks’ non-conference schedule, Spurrier offered up the following pearl of wisdom:
“The Big Five conferences all playing each other, I don’t think that makes a lot of sense, really. Playing East Carolina is a lot tougher game than maybe picking up one of those bottom Big Ten teams, and a lot of fans around here would rather see a team that’s close by.”
This quote begs the following question: does Spurrier really believe East Carolina is better than the teams at the bottom of the Big Ten?
Probably not. In fact, I’d say his comments are more gamesmanship than anything else. Sure, he lobbed a grenade at the Big Ten. However, his primary purpose in making this statement was to praise the Pirates, who finished 10-3 last season, but return only nine starters from that squad.
Lou Holtz used to do this all the time, even in games he absolutely knew he was going to win. Every time his Notre Dame teams faced Navy, Holtz would famously quip that the Midshipmen “scared him to death,” even though they hadn’t beaten the Irish since 1963 when Roger Staubach was the quarterback.
It’s also worth noting that the Middies didn’t beat Notre Dame again until 2007… 11 years after Holtz left South Bend.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume Spurrier was serious. Do the numbers back up his assertion?
Sadly, there’s not much data available to make an informed opinion, since East Carolina doesn’t play the Big Ten very often. However, the lone head-to-head meetings don’t exactly paint a rosy picture. In their four meetings against the conference – all against Illinois – the Pirates have yet to post a victory, losing by an average of 13.6 points. In addition, ECU lost to Big Ten newcomer Maryland 51-20 in the Military Bowl in 2010.
To recap, that makes East Carolina 0-5 against teams that are picked to finish fifth and sixth in their respective divisions in the Big Ten.
By comparison, the Pirates are 1-4 in their last 5 games against the SEC, with their lone victory coming against – you guessed it, South Carolina – back in 1999.
Perhaps he has a point after all?
All kidding aside (and I was joking, Gamecock fans), the only way that we will ever know if East Carolina is really better than the teams at the bottom of the Big Ten is if they meet more often. For the Pirates’ sake, let’s hope that doesn’t happen. As a member of the AAC, ECU will need all of the signature victories it can get if it’s going to capture a spot in one of the major bowls.
That means more meetings with South Carolina and fewer games with Illinois and Maryland.