South Carolina’s players have enough scenarios running around in their head 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 still 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) at this point 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 over 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 title 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 may not be affected at all 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 currently) and Boston College (7-4 currently).
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.