COLUMBIA -- Steve Spurrier said it Sunday: There's something about No. 1.
And it's true. There's just a different buzz around town and campus, even days before kickoff for No. 19 South Carolina and top-ranked Alabama.
Florida was a No. 1 when it came to Williams-Brice Stadium last November. But, according to South Carolina's media guide, Alabama will become only the second No. 1 to visit USC since 1967 (when the rankings records begin in the guide).
It's only natural to sense something's different than, say, Furman week.
"Our guys will be really excited, ready to go," Spurrier said Tuesday. "I know our fans will be. Our fans get up for these kinds of games and I think our team will, also."
As much as the Gamecocks (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are aware of the team coming in -- the 5-0 Tide hasn't lost a regular season game since 2007, or a game at all since the
2008 season -- they're just as aware that there's little heat on them to slay any giants this week.
"Our goal is to be very, very competitive and see if a good break or two can't happen for us as we go through the game," Spurrier said. "The opportunity's there. I think it's been there before and we haven't quite done it."
The last chance was that recent one against Florida.
The Gamecocks played well, trailing 17-14 in the fourth quarter when Stephen Garcia had a pass deflected and intercepted in Gators territory. Tim Tebow and Florida drove and scored to seal a 24-14 win.
Both on the road, there were only two other meetings with No. 1 teams since 1967: a 38-10 Florida State victory in 1991 and a 52-25 Florida win in 1996. (Spurrier, as you might guess, was behind the latter.)
South Carolina has met up with highly ranked teams a lot over the years -- including games against second-ranked teams in each of the past four seasons, including Alabama in 2009 -- but rarely has it actually seen No. 1.
At least it hasn't played many top-ranked teams when they were ranked No. 1. Alabama went on to win the national title last season. So did Florida the year before that. And LSU the year before that.
One other note on the subject: The Gamecocks, since 1967, haven't played a top-ranked team when they've also been ranked.
On Tuesday, one South Carolina captain, kicker Spencer Lanning, called the game "literally the opportunity of a lifetime."
Lifetimes, really, have come and gone without the Gamecocks winning a game like this.
South Carolina won its first home game against a top-five team last year, against Mississippi. (The Rebels' credentials as a legit top-five team took a hit thereafter, although they did finish with nine victories.)
The school's biggest win against a ranked opponent came in 1981, when it beat No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
What are some of the ingredients in an upset of the Tide?
For one, South Carolina needs to avoid turnovers. That's presumed in any game, but Garcia's early pick-six was a momentum-turner last season at Alabama. The Crimson Tide didn't score another touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.
The teams are in relatively similar positions as they were a year ago. The Gamecocks have one close road loss (Georgia last year, Auburn this year) and are ranked right around 20th. Alabama, even at No. 2 a year ago, was considered every bit the national title contender that it is in 2010.
First and second are virtually interchangeable, in a sense. But not in terms of perception.
Even Spurrier commented Sunday that USC's basketball win against Kentucky, in February, meant a lot more because the Wildcats were ranked first and not second.
With a sellout expected Saturday, just how big of a traveling road show is Alabama?
"They had a sellout at Duke when (Alabama) went up there," Spurrier, the former Blue Devils coach, said of the Tide's game in Durham three weeks ago. "Biggest crowd, I think, in the last 50 years."
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