There’s two ways for South Carolina’s football players to go with this.
At this point, they aren’t actually bowl eligible. They’ll need to dispatch a bad FCS team to earn that right, and even then, there isn’t much control over where they land.
But any player is confident, and they should be confident they won’t slip to Western Carolina (2-8). A bowl could represent a pretty crowning achievement for this group.
To see the split, all one needs are two parts of the Gamecocks defensive backfield.
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“Beggars can’t be choosers,” starting safety D.J. Smith said. “We need to win, so I will say I will take any at this point. It doesn’t really matter to me.”
On the other side, his partner at the position.
“I actually look at that stuff,” senior safety Chris Moody said, referring to bowl projections. “I don’t really know how they do it. I watch it. I read all that stuff.”
The coach, Will Muschamp, said he’s been preaching the goal all year, though it’s doubtful his staff is thinking beyond that.
Smith pointed out that it’s beyond the team’s control. Projections have floated the Birmingham Bowl, Texas Bowl in Houston, Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., and Belk Bowl in Charlotte.
Moody has his favorite.
“If I could pick, Houston would be fun,” Moody said.
The Gamecocks missed the postseason for the first time in eight years last season. Smith remembered going to a bowl as a freshman, and last year, he went home to Georgia after the team dispersed following the Clemson game.
“It was good seeing family,” Smith said. “But obviously I’d rather play football than just be chilling at the house.
“I don’t want to get used to going home, so it was definitely weird.”
For the 18 seniors who will be departing, a bowl would be a final uptick in four- or five-year career with peaks and valleys. They were on the last 11-2 team, the one that sent Connor Shaw out on top. They saw a fall from top-10 to 7-6, a cratering and coaching change in 2015.
Leaving with a bowl trip that looked like a longshot a month into the season? That’s a little upswing at the end.
“That’s big considering the year we had last year,” Moody said. “It’s kind of tough. We sent those seniors out kind of badly. For them to rally behind us, coach Muschamp really pushed. It means a lot.”