His Gamecocks head into their Ohio Valley Conference opener 4-0 and riding their best start under a first-year head coach in 36 years. They are one of seven 4-0 FCS teams this week – 12 are at 3-0 or better -- but have not gotten any love from the pollsters this season.
They were one of four among those undefeated 12 not in either of the FCS polls last week – and those polls had as many as five teams with losing records and two that were winless.
“I don’t know if we will and I don’t want to say we shouldn’t,” Clark said Sunday. “In some ways it’s good for your program and your school and some ways it puts a target on you. How much more does a team get up for you than they already are when it’s a conference game?
“I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s a good thing (to be ranked) and in the end it can be looked at for a playoff berth. I guess I’m not worried about it either way.”
The Gamecocks continued their best start since 2010 with a 32-26 overtime win over FBS Georgia State Saturday in the Georgia Dome. DaMarcus James rushed for three touchdowns, including the game-winner.
They also have beaten Division II North Alabama in overtime, Jacksonville University and Alabama State along the way.
Clark defined the start as “good I don’t know about great.” The players said after Saturday’s game the Gamecocks can still play better than they’ve shown.
Jim Fuller’s 5-0 start in 1977 represents the best start by a JSU football team under a first-year coach in school history.
A week ago, UT Martin coach Jason Simpson virtually campaigned for his Skyhawks being in the top 20 after beating two ranked FCS opponents and they pulled into the Sports Network poll at No. 24. They were five points from breaking into the Coaches Poll.
Clark isn’t going to do that.
“I won’t be mad if we’re not,” he said. “I don’t want to question anybody on the awards they give, but it’s so funny when you see an award happen and then see the guy not play as good the next week.
“When they feel they’ve got something to prove it always seems you play better, but at the same time (being ranked) says something for confidence. We play with a little bit of confidence, but I like the idea we have something to prove every week, too. I think we can use it either way.”
The Gamecocks did receive votes in both polls last week, landing in 34th in The Sports Network poll and tied for 29th in the Coaches Poll.
They haven’t been in the Top 25 since pulling down the 24th spot in the Sept. 17, 2012, Sports Network media/publicists poll. They haven’t been in a Top 20 since being No. 18 in the Oct. 21, 2011, Coaches Poll.
Both polls come out Monday.
The last time the Gamecocks didn’t start the year in the preseason poll – 2008 – they broke in at 3-1 after a Week 4 win over nationally ranked Eastern Illinois and stayed in it for 44 of the next 47 weeks.
If the Gamecocks do get ranked this week, it will just be another step in the progression of the new staff.
“It’s another proof-in-the-pudding type thing of if you do all the things we ask, good things are going to happen to you, if you let down this (setback) is going to happen,” Clark said. “I think personally it’s a little early (to be talking about polls), let’s just keep doing what we’re doing now that we’re getting into conference play.”
The Gamecocks will get senior offensive lineman Taylor Johnstone back this week. Johnstone missed the first four games for an academic-related issue. “Getting him back (creates) a bunch of good things,” Clark said.
Receiver/returnman Telvin Brown was seen leaving the game on crutches for a recurring foot problem and his progress will be monitored during the week. Running back Troymaine Pope, who took a hard fall late in the North Alabama game, could’ve played Saturday if absolutely necessary but it was more prudent to hold him out for precautionary reasons with the conference starting this week.
Al Muskewitz covers Jacksonville State sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3577.
Undefeated FCS teams this week
Team (Record) Last week’s polls (TSN-Coaches)
Jacksonville State (4-0) RV-RV
Coastal Carolina (4-0) 15-15
Charleston Southern (4-0) NR-NR
Fordham (4-0) 21-21
McNeese State (4-0) 12-13
Sacred Heart (4-0) RV-RV
Towson (4-0) 4-3
Lehigh (3-0) 22-18
Mercer (3-0) NR-NR
Montana (3-0) 9-11
N. Dakota State (3-0) 1-1
Northern Iowa (3-0) 7-7
N. Carolina A&T (2-0) RV-RV
Brown (1-0) NR-NR
Cornell (1-0) NR-NR
Dartmouth (1-0) NR-NR
Harvard (1-0) RV-RV
Penn (1-0) RV-RV
Yale (1-0) NR-NR