Coach: Gamecocks 'bowl national champs'

Anybody thinking Steve Spurrier is on the verge of retiring might want to think again.

Not a chance, at least not with South Carolina winning at an unprecedented pace. The Gamecocks are coming off their third straight 11-win season. The only other BCS teams to win at least 11 games each of the last three seasons are Alabama, Oregon and Stanford.

“Doing what we’ve been able to do invigorates you. It gives you energy,” said Spurrier, who turns 69 in April. “Somebody ought to do an article on age versus physical and mental fitness. I’ve been doing the same workout now for a number of years. I still call the plays, still run the offense, and they tell me my memory is still pretty good.

“Age is just a number.”

Speaking of numbers, South Carolina beat six teams this season that won bowl games, including a pair of BCS bowl winners -- Clemson and UCF. That’s more than anybody else in college football.

Spurrier has taken it upon himself to declare the Gamecocks the national champion of the bowl season.

“We’re looking for any kind of championship we can find around here. We don’t have many,” quipped Spurrier, who remains as motivated as ever to win an SEC title at South Carolina. “It’s amazing how we found ways to win this year. It just seemed like we kept having good things happen to us ever since we left Knoxville [a 23-21 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 19].”

Spurrier has never been shy when it comes to needling his rivals. With five straight wins over Clemson, he made it a point to remind everybody following the 34-24 Capital One Bowl victory over Wisconsin how nice it was to win the “state championship” again.

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney countered a few days later following the Tigers’ 40-35 win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl that Clemson was the first team from the state of South Carolina to win a BCS bowl.

Even Spurrier had to give Swinney props for his comeback. Sort of, anyway.

“Well, he’s right,” Spurrier said. “We’ve never even been to a BCS bowl. We can’t get invited. We’re in the SEC.”

And as Spurrier noted, Clemson beat just one team this season that won its bowl game (Syracuse), and the Head Ball Coach also wonders if Swinney might be distorting history a tad.

“I called Danny Ford and said, ‘Danny, does Dabo forget that Clemson in 1981 went down to the Orange Bowl, won the national championship and went undefeated?’ ” Spurrier joked. “They didn’t call it a BCS bowl back then, but it was the same bowl, the Orange Bowl, and the Orange Bowl has always been a major bowl.”

Yep, after all these years, Spurrier still loves the give and take and still loves spicing up a rivalry. It’s equally clear that he’s soaking up the twilight of his coaching career.

“Bowls are so important now,” Spurrier said. “Back in the '70s and '80s, they used to be a reward for having a good season. Now, you’re only as good as your last game. That bowl game is all they talk about for eight months until you play again.

“Look at my buddy Bobby Stoops. He’s won a whole bunch of Big 12 championships, but to beat Alabama in that bowl game the other night might have been bigger than some of them. I told him he can get rid of that $5 million-a-year contract now and move up to $6 million.

“One thing we both know is that you better enjoy it while you can.”

The Gamecocks have a chance to finish in the top five of the final polls, which has never happened in school history. They should be a lock to finish in the top 10 for a third straight season after taking a No. 8 ranking in the Associated Press poll into the bowl game.

South Carolina was the only team in the country that beat three different teams in the top 15 of the final BCS standings this season -- Clemson, Missouri and UCF.

“There’s going to be about 11 of us who are somewhere around 11-2 or 12-2, so we’ll see how it all shakes out,” Spurrier said. “But I’m going ahead and declaring us the national champion of the bowl season.”