USC Gamecocks Football

Staying close to home: South Carolina earns trip to Charlotte, Belk Bowl

South Carolina will officially be the visiting team in the Dec. 29 Belk Bowl against Virginia, but it probably won’t feel like it to the Gamecocks, who are becoming very familiar with Bank of America Stadium.

South Carolina (7-5) accepted an invitation Sunday to play Virginia (7-5) in the Belk Bowl, which will kick off at noon in Charlotte, N.C. It will be the Gamecocks’ first appearance in the Belk Bowl but fourth appearance in the last eight seasons in the home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.

“Certainly familiar with Bank of America Stadium,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. “One of our best alumni bases is there in Charlotte, and we do a lot of recruiting there and in the state of North Carolina.”

While the Gamecocks are in their third year under Muschamp, the Cavaliers of the ACC are in their third year under Bronco Mendenhall.

“I don’t know Bronco Mendenhall personally, but I have a lot of respect for what he did with the BYU program and certainly the way he’s turned around Virginia,” Muschamp said.

South Carolina will be trying to get to eight wins for the 15th time in its football history. A victory would give the Gamecocks back-to-back seasons of at least eight wins for the second time in school history.

“When you win the bowl game, it just makes everybody feel better about what’s going on, where the program is headed,” Muschamp said. “You get a bunch of bowl gear, and if you lose the game, you damn sure don’t want to wear any of it. I haven’t put anything on from the Birmingham Bowl, I can tell you that.”

The Gamecocks are 3-0 all-time in Bank of America Stadium, most recently beating N.C. State 35-28 to open the 2017 season. South Carolina will play its next two games in the stadium because it opens the 2019 season against North Carolina in Charlotte.

That’s fine with Muschamp, who has said since he took the South Carolina job that he hoped to make Charlotte a home field in recruiting for the Gamecocks.

“The 2018 team will close its book in Charlotte there and when we get back to work we’ll be on the 2019 team,” Muschamp said. “Our fan base is phenomenal and I know they will travel. It’s really important to us and for future bowl games. Bowl sites want to see you travel and our guys travel. We had a great crowd in Tampa last year (for the Outback Bowl) and certainly looking forward to another great crowd in Bank of America.”

Belk Bowl info

Who: South Carolina (7-5) vs. Virginia (7-5)

Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina

When: Noon Dec. 29


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