Bowl options abound for Gamecocks

Saturday’s game might not have huge impact on either team’s bowl destination

jkendall@thestate.comNovember 25, 2013 

South Carolina Gamecocks running back Mike Davis (28)

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

  • BOWL PROJECTIONS

    ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach: USC vs. Nebraska in the Outback Bowl; Clemson vs. Ohio State in the Orange Bowl

    ESPN.com’s Brad Edwards: USC vs. Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl; Clemson vs. Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl

    SportingNews.com: USC vs. Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl; Clemson vs. Michigan State in the Orange Bowl

    CBSSports.com: USC vs. Nebraska in the Outback Bowl; Clemson vs. Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl

    SBNation.com: USC vs. Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl; Clemson vs. Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl

South Carolina’s players have enough scenarios running around in their heads without worrying about potential bowl game destinations.

At least, that’s the message they have been preaching publicly as the regular season comes to an end. Heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Clemson, the Gamecocks have a shot to play in the Capital One, Outback or Chick-fil-A bowls, according to most national prognosticators.

“Bowl games will come,” spur Sharrod Golightly said. “We just try to take every game as it comes. If we do our job and come out and fight and win, we will be in good position to go to a bowl game.”

The best-case scenario for No. 10 South Carolina (9-2) does not hinge on the outcome of Saturday’s game against the sixth-ranked Tigers (10-1). If Texas A&M beats Missouri, it will put the Gamecocks in the SEC championship game. If the Gamecocks win that game, they will play in the school’s first BCS bowl game — the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2.

South Carolina’s hopes for an at-large bid to the Sugar Bowl took a big hit with Auburn’s victory against Georgia. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in the BCS, and likely wouldn’t fall far in those rankings even if they lose to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. If Auburn upsets the Crimson Tide, Alabama almost certainly would take the SEC’s at-large BCS bid.

Bowl placement “matters a little bit, I guess,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. “People brag about that, and so forth, that you go to a BCS bowl game. It pays a little more, so I know athletic director (Ray) Tanner and president (Harris) Pastides would love to see us in a BCS bowl. The players, they get the same gift whether it’s that bowl or a non-BCS bowl, as they call it.”

Spurrier equated the prestige of playing in a BCS bowl game with finishing in the country’s top 10 or just outside of it.

“We’ll go wherever we’re sent,” he said.

The SEC’s cluster of second-tier teams — including Missouri (No. 5 in the BCS), LSU (No. 17) and the Aggies (No. 21) — makes picking South Carolina’s destination tricky. The Gamecocks are ranked No. 10 in the BCS.

If the Gamecocks play in the SEC championship game and lose, the SEC would “protect” them from playing in a bowl other than the Capital One, Cotton, Outback or Chick-fil-A bowl. South Carolina played in the Outback Bowl last season, the Capital One Bowl the year before that and the Chick-fil-A Bowl the year before that.

Clemson’s bowl chances might not be affected by the outcome of Saturday’s game. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in the most recent BCS standings, and have little competition for the ACC’s No. 2 position behind Florida State.

If the Seminoles make the BCS national title game, the Orange Bowl would be left to choose between Clemson (which would be, at worst, 10-2) and Duke (9-2 currently), Georgia Tech (7-4) and Boston College (7-4).

South Carolina senior offensive lineman Ronald Patrick doesn’t put much faith in projections, he said.

“I know there is no guarantee, so I don’t pay too much attention to it,” Patrick said.

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