If the South Carolina football team wants to reach a bowl, it has to get at least one big upset. Even if the Gamecocks take care of business against UMass and Western Carolina, and then knock off Missouri, they’ll still have to beat Clemson, Florida or Tennessee.
SBNation numbers guru Bill Connelly puts USC’s chance to go 6-6 at 6 percent.
Don’t tell that to coach Will Muschamp, or his players.
“I talk to these guys all the time,” Muschamp said. “Our seniors want to go to a bowl game. That’s very important for our program, and the most important thing is for our seniors.”
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South Carolina had gone bowling for seven consecutive years before last season. This year, the team’s best chance would have involved sweeping the less powerful teams in the SEC East, but a loss at Kentucky threw a wrench in that.
Several players – Buck Darius English, defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth, offensive guard Zack Bailey – all said the possibility of a bowl comes up often. They don’t look at it in a season-long context, but instead take it game-by-game, feeling confident each time they take the field.
“We definitely talk about it every day, and especially the seniors,” English said. “This is our last go-round, so we definitely want to make it to a bowl game. That’s definitely a goal of ours.”
Linebacker Larenz Bryant has been sidelined most of the season with a hamstring injury, but Muschamp said he’ll start at strongside linebacker on Saturday against UMass. His return is linked to Jonathan Walton likely being sidelined by a knee injury.
“He gives us another good athlete and a guy with some length on the edge to set the edge of the defense,” Muschamp said. “We really missed him on special teams in our first six games. Excited to get Larenz back out there.”
Bryant has one career start, against Kentucky last season.
What’d you do on your bye?
Muschamp said his staff encouraged players to get away from football and coaches during the team’s bye week. They didn’t have to go home, but they had to disengage.
Running back A.J. Turner stayed around and hit the weight room, still a bit annoyed about the loss to Georgia.
Darius English, who plays Buck, said he went to North Carolina and caught a full Saturday of college football. He paid special attention to the Alabama-Tennessee game and some of the top-flight edge rushers those teams have.
Offensive guard Zack Bailey said he spent time relaxing in Isle of Palms, near his home in Summerville, and attended a Citadel football game.
▪ Former Gamecocks strength coach Joe Connolly is now on staff at UMass.
“I don’t keep up with him too much, but it’s going to be pretty exciting to play against him,” English said. “Earlier this year, we played against coach (Deke) Adams, that was pretty fun. It’s fun to play against old coaches.”
▪ South Carolina athletics and Bi-Lo representatives presented game day tickets to representatives from Palmetto Place Children’s Shelter, Boys & Girls Club of the Midlands and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Columbia on at an event Tuesday afternoon.
Who: UMass at USC
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
Line: USC by 20