South Carolina approaching 'elite'

Handicapping the chance for a breakthrough season for the Gamecocks

Updated: March 12, 2012, 1:46 PM ET
By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders
Steve SpurrierDouglas Jones/US PresswireLacking a true "breakthrough" season, the Gamecocks have inched ever closer to elite status.

College football has always been ruled by an elite class of programs. Despite breakthrough seasons turned in each year from programs outside the elite class, the historically top teams always seem to prevail. Consider:

• Each of the national title game winners in the history of the BCS ranks among the top-20 in all-time winning percentage.
• Ten of the last 20 national champs rank among the top-10 in all-time winning percentage.

Which raises the question: Does anyone outside the elite class have a chance? That's what fans at schools like South Carolina would like to know. Can they really crash the party? The Gamecocks rank 77th in all-time winning percentage against current FBS programs (.443). That's good for 11th among 2012 SEC teams, ahead of only Mississippi State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Seven SEC conference teams rank among the top 25, including all five that have won a BCS championship game: Alabama (.700), Tennessee (.646), LSU (.623), Auburn (.595) and Florida (.586).

South Carolina hasn't won an SEC championship in its history, but it will enter the 2012 season with the 14th-best odds in the country (30-to-1) to win a national championship. The Gamecocks are 10th on Mark Schlabach's most recent Top 25 rankings. What kind of odds are they really up against, and how much does history really matter?

Brian Fremeau

ESPN Insider
• Has been a contributor to ESPN Insider and ESPN The Magazine since 2009
• Creator of the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a measure of college football team efficiency
• Contributor to Football Outsiders and his own site,