Thanks to the final minutes of Saturday’s come-from-behind, 23-20 overtime win over Florida, hope has returned to South Carolina’s football season. Suddenly, the Gamecocks are heading into this week’s home game needing to beat South Alabama to become bowl eligible.
“Happiness is a lot better than it once was, that’s for sure,” coach Steve Spurrier said. “I give our guys a lot of credit for bouncing back. We were a little bit in the dumps two weeks ago, but our players, I am really proud of how they got over it.”
The Gamecocks (5-5) will be bowl eligible with a win over the Jaguars on Saturday or Clemson the following week. South Carolina has been to a school-record six straight bowl games.
The Gamecocks reappeared this week in many of the national bowl projections that had left them out after a Nov. 1 loss to Tennessee, although it’s difficult to narrow down the destination with so much left to play out this season. The Dec. 27 Duck Commander Independence Bowl, Dec. 29 Liberty Bowl, Dec. 30 Music City Bowl, Dec. 30 Belk Bowl, Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl and Jan. 3 Birmingham Bowl remain possibilities.
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Eight SEC teams have qualified for a bowl game and five more, including the Gamecocks, have the chance to do it before the end of the regular season. The SEC has nine bowl game tie-ins in addition to games controlled by the College Football Playoff, which are the Sugar, Rose, Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach Bowls, along with the national championship game.
If the Gamecocks, Florida (5-4), Tennessee (5-5), Kentucky (5-6) and Arkansas (5-5) all reach six victories, the SEC could have one more bowl eligible team than it has a tie-in for, although it’s likely another spot would be available in a separate game.
Spurrier wasn’t thinking much about that Sunday, though, when he spoke to the media about his team’s renewed optimism.
“We hope (the win is a shot in the arm),” he said. “Nobody pointed fingers about who did this, that or the other. We played well as a team.”
That will need to continue this week against South Alabama if the Gamecocks hope to get a second straight win, Spurrier said. The Jaguars (6-4) have losses to Mississippi State, Georgia Southern, Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State this season. They are coming off a 24-20 win over Texas State.
“If we’re going to beat them, we have to play,” Spurrier said. “We have to play like we played this past week on defense, and, hopefully, better on offense. They are going to come in here with an idea that they can certainly beat us, and they can. We have to be ready to play them, and we have to play well.”
Saturday will be Senior Day for the Gamecocks.
“It should be a fun day at Williams-Brice,” Spurrier said. “We haven’t had that many this year.”
... ESPN: Mark Schlabach predicts the Duck Commander Independence Bowl against Virginia Tech (Dec. 27), while Brett McMurphy says USC will face East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl (Jan. 3).
... CBS/Jerry Palm: Liberty Bowl (Dec. 29) vs. Texas
... Saturday Down South: Liberty Bowl (Dec. 29) vs. West Virginia
... Sporting News: Music City Bowl (Dec. 30) vs. Georgia Tech
... College Sports Madness: Music City Bowl (Dec. 30) vs. Michigan
... CollegeFootballNews.com: Belk Bowl (Dec. 30) vs. Louisville
... SB Nation: TaxSlayer/Gator (Jan. 2) vs. Louisville
... Phil Steele: Birmingham Bowl (Jan. 3) vs. Memphis