USC Gamecocks Football

Gamecocks schedule return trip

South Carolina got run out of the Georgia Dome by Auburn on Saturday night, but the Gamecocks are headed right back in to play their mirror image.

South Carolina accepted an invitation Sunday evening to play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Florida State on Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. in Atlanta. Both teams are their conference’s runners-up and 9-4 on the season. The No. 19 Gamecocks lost 56-17 to the Tigers on Saturday in the SEC championship game, just hours before the No. 24 Seminoles fell 44-33 to Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.

“I told (athletics director Eric Hyman), ‘I really hope we can return to the Chick-fil-A Bowl because if we’re ever going to win the SEC championship . . . we need to learn to play in the Georgia Dome. If we can go back to the Georgia Dome, let’s go,' ” Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said. “Our fans have got to understand. We’ve got to go in there and compete and learn how to play in that place.”

South Carolina wasn’t competitive at all in its most recent trip, having been outgained 589 yards to 349 and losing by the widest margin in SEC title game history.

“We didn’t play very well there last night, but that game is history,” Spurrier said. “Florida State (head coach) Jimbo Fisher, his guys have had a very similar year that we have. We both did not play our best in our conference championship games, and I know we’re both desperately trying to finish with a victory.”

Spurrier has plenty of history against Florida State, which he once referred to as Free Shoes University after a 1993 incident in which several Seminoles allegedly received free shoes and clothes. Spurrier usually got the best of FSU on the summer lecture circuit, but former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden usually won the battle on the field.

Spurrier was 5-7-1 against the Seminoles while at Florida, although he did win his only national title by beating Florida State 52-20 in the Sugar Bowl following the 1996 season.

“When I was a Gator , we didn’t like FSU and they didn’t like us, but I haven’t coached in Florida nine years now. Things have changed a little bit,” Spurrier said. “I don’t have any hatred for those guys anymore. I used to obviously. This is not an animosity game; this is two teams trying to get that last win.”

Bowden retired under pressure at the end of the 2009 season, and Fisher took over as the Seminoles head coach. In his first season, Fisher led FSU to wins over Samford, BYU, Wake Forest, Virginia, Miami, Boston College, Clemson, Maryland and Florida but lost to Oklahoma, N.C. State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Florida State and South Carolina have not played since 1991.

“Playing against a Steve Spurrier-coached team, you have to dot your Is and cross your Ts, I don’t think there is any doubt about it,” Fisher said. “I think our kids will be up for the challenge. We are a little disappointed (after losing to Virginia Tech) and they should feel that way, but we’ll be ready for the ball game when it comes.”

South Carolina hasn’t played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, since 1969, when it lost to West Virginia 14-3. That was its only appearance in the game and also the only other year the Gamecocks won a title. South Carolina was the ACC champion that season. This season, it won the SEC’s Eastern Division.

“We are ecstatic about having the opportunity to play in a Chick-fil-A Bowl,” Hyman said. “In the six years I have been here, our fans have always expressed a high level of interest in playing in Atlanta. As we all know, the Gamecocks will paint the community garnet.”

The Outback Bowl picks in the spot ahead of the Chick-fil-A Bowl, but selected Florida, which finished with two fewer wins than the Gamecocks and lost to South Carolina 36-14 on Nov. 13.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC