Our state has some shameful statistics.

But rather than dwelling on them, this column reveals a positive S.C. distinction:

Ours is the only state with two major college football teams that have won 10 or more games in each of the last three seasons. No other state has even two such teams that have won at least 10 games in each of the last two seasons.

More bragging rights:

The South Carolina Gamecocks, ranked No. 4 in last season's final Associated Press poll, are No. 9 in this year's preseason poll going into tonight's opener against No. 21 Texas A&M in Columbia.

And the Clemson Tigers, who were No. 8 in last season's final AP poll, are No. 16 going into Saturday night's opener at No. 12 Georgia.

OK, so it would be much better to be highly ranked in protecting women from brutes than in the AP football poll.

OK, so our low gas taxes fuel a high ranking in the high risks of decaying roads and bridges.

As for our - make that your - Gamecocks and our Tigers, though, betting against them in football over the last three seasons has also been a risky proposition. Unless, that is, you bet on USC to beat the spread against Clemson over the last five seasons - all double-digit Gamecock victories.

But when they weren't playing each other over the past three seasons, USC and Clemson combined for a sterling 62-11 record. And during those three seasons, Clemson went 4-0 against Southeastern Conference teams other than USC (two victories over Auburn, one each over LSU and Georgia).

Still, USC has the upper in-state football hand - and the honor of being the home team in tonight's first game telecast on the new SEC Network.

Pop Gamecock-lore test:

Name the season, site, opponent and outcome of the last USC football game played in South Carolina but not in Columbia or Clemson (answer at column's end).

You make the calls

So yes, we South Carolinians - and not just USC and Clemson fans - are ready for some more college football.

Yet serious questions linger on this first day of the first season with a four-team national-title playoff, including:

Will a current court-ruling trend soon have big-time sports schools like USC and Clemson paying "student-athletes" more than tuition, book costs, room, board and small stipends?

Will that give the "Power Five" conferences (SEC, Atlantic Coast, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12) an even bigger resources edge?

Will the Big 10, which has 14 teams, and the Big 12, which has 10, ever change their misleading names?

Can the big business of big-time college athletics, including the NCAA and schools like USC and Clemson, maintain "nonprofit" and tax-deductible-contribution status while generating - and paying out - ever-more loot?

What about the numerous big-time schools already losing money on sports?

Will schools pay star quarterbacks more than third-string guards?

What about scholarship athletes - male and female - in "non-revenue" sports?

What about not just the rising price of football and basketball tickets but the rising average age of spectators?

What about the bottom lines for non-major football players like The Citadel and Charleston Southern if schedule-strength worries move big-timers to drop their "money" games against them?

How many folks will show up for tonight's Point-at-Charleston Southern opener while Texas A&M-USC is on TV, and Saturday night's Coastal Carolina-at-Citadel opener while Clemson-Georgia is on TV?

How much better could our state do in education, reducing domestic violence, fixing roads and other challenges if we focused more on those and less on football?

And how many more times will Clemson turn the ball over against USC on Nov. 29 at Death Valley after throwing three interceptions and losing three fumbles in last year's 31-17 loss at Williams-Brice Stadium while the home team committed zero turnovers?

Another costly drop

But hey, anybody can make a mistake.

For instance, Saturday's column committed an unforced turnover by misidentifying which Richard Wagner opera includes "Ride of the Valkyries." That opera, of course, is "Die Walküre."

And, of course, the most memorable assessment of that Teutonically inspired composer is this gem that Mark Twain borrowed from a theme by Edgar Wilson Nye:

"Wagner's music is better than it sounds."

Answer: 1965 season opener (Sept. 18), Johnson Hagood Stadium: USC 13, The Citadel 3.

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.