Better than they deserve right now.
What the rest of the world calls the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, JSU should call something else.
Forget the FCS playoffs. JSU should spend the next two weeks preparing for the SCF playoffs — as in Second Chance Football.
It’s a second chance for the fourth-ranked Gamecocks to chase a championship after blowing one in the regular season’s final three weeks.
And does anyone remember Crowe’s preseason quote about adding a statement on the field to match JSU’s “statement-in-steel” stadium expansion? It seems the Gamecocks have a second chance for that.
The Ohio Valley Conference runners-up got a first-round bye and will open their playoff run at home against Wofford. OVC champion Southeast Missouri State got shipped to Eastern Washington.
That’s not to declare a total foul against fairness here. JSU is 9-2 with a victory over SEC member Ole Miss on its resume, and the Gamecocks beat SEMO nine days ago.
That gave the NCAA selection committee enough token justification for allowing the Gamecocks to host.
Then again, JSU’s guarantee of $70,000 gave the NCAA enough will to find a way. The minimum bid is $30,000.
Yes, one really can buy a break.
That’s not to say the Gamecocks got away with two losses in the final three weeks. Allowing a 5-6 Tennessee Tech team to score 28 unanswered points in the fourth quarter cost JSU a No. 5 national seed and guarantee of playing at home beyond the first round.
That fourth-quarter collapse at Tennessee Tech could cost JSU real dollars.
Let’s say the Gamecocks get crowds of roughly 20,000 for a home playoff game. At $20 a ticket, JSU gets $400,000 in revenue. Take the NCAA’s 75 percent cut, and JSU keeps $100,000.
JSU has a chance for a six-figure payday on Dec. 4. If the Gamecocks win, then it’s likely their next opponent gets a second payday.
That should make William AND Mary happy.
It also means the first in a string of quiet Saturdays for the field named after Bill and Paul, so a JSU team that stood three hours from a top ranking less than a month ago suffered.
But the Gamecocks have playmakers, and they’ve beaten a collection of athletes as good as any they’ll see in the playoffs. Not many Jeremiah Masolis and Jerrell Powes running around in FCS football.
So, the SCF playoffs lie ahead for JSU.
The chance for a ring more meaningful than an OVC championship ring lies ahead for JSU.
And it’s not unheard-of for a talented enough team to get hot in the playoffs. In 2002, a three-loss Western Kentucky team beat the Nos. 1-, 2- and 3-ranked teams en route to the national title.
Way before the Hilltoppers moved up to the top division and lost 26 consecutive games, they won four consecutive playoff games — either on the road or a neutral field.
It can be done. JSU just needs to play like JSU teams played when home playoff games were the norm.
The Gamecocks just need to show they deserved their second chance.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Jomedstar.