Remember the bubble of enthusiasm surrounding Ryan Perrilloux's arrival last year? JSU was to have the ex-LSU quarterback for two years, and what a two years it would be.
JSU didn't make the championship subdivision playoffs last year, and the NCAA levied a postseason ban for this season because of academics.
But what about that stadium improvement, due for completion in time next year? There's something to feel good about, right?
It looks impressive, but a foundation fix and deeper supports swelled the project's cost by $5.3 million.
So, taking stock of it all, the Gamecocks will never make the playoffs with Perrilloux.
A contender-quality team can't win a championship to help the school sell suites.
And the school will be out millions more dollars for the stadium.
Pop! Pop! Pop!
JSU fans could use a new bubble.
They could use something to swell hopes for a program that hasn't found life easy in Division I.
They need something to say there was a good reason to expand Paul Snow Stadium and that there's reason to buy into the stadium … which must happen to offset its cost.
Gamecock backers need wins this season, and that's something Perrilloux's final JSU team can and must do.
"There's a statement in steel," JSU coach Jack Crowe said Thursday, during the team's media day news conference, "but the statement in flesh, blood and bone down there on that field has got to be made, too."
To begin to gauge what JSU must do this season, take stock of what JSU football is.
It plays in one of the Football Championship Subdivision's weakest conferences, a fact that made the Gamecocks the first team left out of the 16-team playoff field last year despite an 8-3 record.
Falling short of the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate requirement prompted a postseason ban for this season, and perceptions from that will weigh against anything good the team does on the field.
Beyond this year, the Gamecocks no longer have Perrilloux, one of the highest-profile transfers in FCS history.
So, the Gamecocks couldn't get it done in a weak conference, with Perrilloux under center and with questionable academics.
Those are surface-level perceptions.
They're not fair, given the whole story, but they'll stick nonetheless.
Against all of that, JSU still must sell two-thirds of the new suites.
Therein lies JSU's championship and playoff berth this season. The Gamecocks must raise perceptions.
They must win enough to back up the notion that a conference title and playoff berth would've happened this season, but for the ban.
They need to show that conference titles and playoff berths in 2003 and 2004 weren't just a matter of a team from a stronger conference switching to a weaker league.
They need to show that a program building one of FCS's top stadiums can be something more than a program with one of FCS's top stadiums.
"The statement in steel is that we're a top 10 program in the country," Crowe said. "That's the statement, when you do that.
"We've sort of bounced around at it for a while here and never quite broken through, but our players know it. They understand."
JSU can help its cause by posting good GPA and APR numbers this year. That would validate victories on the field, and the Gamecocks appear to be on course in their course work.
But winning big does wonders for selling suites. It also bolsters the foundation for a program that can play to the level of its stadium.
No one expects better than an 0-2 start against Georgia Tech and Florida State, each an upper-division opponent, but JSU needs to run the table against the FCS portion of its schedule.
"It'd be nice to come out of the season 9-2 with a lot of momentum and a team with 18 sophomores coming back," JSU athletics director Oval Jaynes said. "Winning helps everything. Winning raises all the boats."
Not to mention perceptions, and lots of money.