When it comes to college football bowl games and how they select which teams to go after, wins and losses are only part of the equation. How much a fan base will travel, matchup considerations and past appearances all are taken into account as well.
Which makes the latest bowl projections for South Carolina somewhat surprising.
With two games left to play, the Gamecocks are looking in all likelihood at least a 7-5 regular season finish, a mark that would probably put them above the tier of SEC tie-ins with the Birmingham and Independence bowls. The Texas Bowl and Music City Bowl would be a stretch as well, and the Outback Bowl is off the table after the Gamecocks played there last year.
Despite rumblings that the Tax Slayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville would be interested in a 7-5 USC team, the majority of projections released this week have Will Muschamp’s team staying very close to Columbia for the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, playing in a stadium where it opened the 2017 season and is set to begin the 2019 campaign.
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Out of 15 national media predictions, eight have Carolina going to the Belk Bowl for the first time in program history, despite the Gamecocks’ recent history of playing in Charlotte and the fact that many USC fans would likely not buy hotel rooms for such a nearby destination.
If not the Belk Bowl, there seem to be two realistic options left — the Gator Bowl and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tennessee. Four outlets have the Gamecocks slotted for the Gator Bowl, while two have them going to Memphis.
SOUTH CAROLINA BOWL PROJECTIONS
▪ ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. NC State, Dec. 29
▪ ESPN’s Mitch Sherman — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. Pitt, Dec. 29
▪ Sports Illustrated — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. Duke, Dec. 29
▪ CBS Sports — Liberty Bowl (Memphis) vs. Oklahoma State, Dec. 31
▪ SB Nation — Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) vs. Northwestern, Dec. 31
▪ 247Sports — Liberty Bowl (Memphis) vs. Texas Tech, Dec. 31
▪ College Football News — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. NC State, Dec. 29
▪ Sporting News — Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) vs. Wisconsin, Dec. 31
▪ Saturday Down South — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. Syracuse, Dec. 29
▪ Bleacher Report — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. NC State, Dec. 29
▪ NBC Sports — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. Georgia Tech, Dec. 29
▪ The Athletic — Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) vs. Syracuse, Dec. 31
▪ USA Today — Belk Bowl (Charlotte) vs. Virginia, Dec. 29
▪ Athlon Sports — Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) vs. Northwestern, Dec. 31
▪ Stadium — Music City Bowl (Nashville) vs. Pitt, Dec. 28