Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that if South Carolina didn’t have a rival outside the SEC, he’d follow Alabama coach Nick Saban’s idea of playing nine conference games.
But the Head Ball Coach has a team up the road from Columbia that requires a great deal of attention.
“We have one fixed opponent and it’s Clemson University,” Spurrier said during the SEC spring teleconference. “If you ask our fans here at the University of South Carolina, they would rather win that game than any conference game. We’re a little bit different. Everybody is a little different.”
That’s why the SEC’s scheduling decision from Sunday has sparked a debate among the league’s coaches.
The conference voted to continue playing six division games, one permanent opponent from the other division and one rotating foe from that side. Each school will now be required to schedule one team from one of other four major conferences, beginning in 2016.
That won’t change much for South Carolina with the Tigers on the slate.
“One of our biggest games, if not the biggest, is our in-state rival Clemson,” Spurrier said. “They’ve been very good. They’ve been in the top 10 the last two years as we have. Give Clemson a little bragging rights. Those guys have done very well up there.”
South Carolina’s constant from the SEC West is now Texas A&M, which comes to Columbia to open the season Aug. 28 after replacing Arkansas. However, Spurrier wanted to see a rotation of both non-division opponents.
“The reason I thought the 6-0-2 was the best is because it was the most fair way to go,” Spurrier said. “The most fair way to do it is not the way our conference decided, but each school sort of looked at what was best for them and that’s the way (the league) decided to go. It didn’t matter to us that much.”
The SEC’s decision was to keep many of the longtime conference rivalries going, like Alabama-Tennessee and Georgia-Auburn.
Saban was very much a proponent of that plan, and that’s why he favored a slate that included two rotating opponents, one constant and one out-of-conference foe from one of those major leagues.
“Only way to do that was to play nine games,” Saban said. “But I’m happy with what we’re doing now and we can all move forward and schedule for 2016 and beyond, which has been a little bit of an issue for us.”
Spurrier hopes that all SEC schools playing a quality opponent outside the league will help renew some of the old Big 12 rivalries, and while he said USC is not a “victim” of the new format, he agrees with coach Les Miles that LSU suffers the most from the current format.
“Four years ago when we kept playing Florida and Georgia in the regular season I kept thinking to myself, this will be fun because I can’t wait until the other guys get that,” said Miles, whose program has played the Gators or Bulldogs eight times since 1991. “To say this is the fairest way to pick a champion, I think that’s flawed.”