USC in ‘much better place’ as Year 3 under Muschamp winds down
Virginia (7-5, 4-4 ACC) at (South Carolina (7-5, 4-4 SEC)
When: Noon, Dec. 29
Where: Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte
1. South Carolina is seeking its 10th season of at least eight wins since 2000, but a victory over Virginia and the Gamecocks will have at least eight wins in consecutive years for the first time since 2012-13. Will Muschamp is already the winningest coach in USC history through the first three seasons. He’s 1-1 in bowl games. Lou Holtz are Steve Spurrier are the only Carolina coaches with at least two bowl wins.
2. Facing those not-named Clemson, USC hasn’t lost to an ACC foe since falling to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Gamecocks are 4-0 over their last four tries. This will be their first game against UVa since beating the Cavaliers on Sept. 6, 2003, in Columbia. Virginia hasn’t faced an SEC team since falling to Auburn in the 2011 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
3. The second bowl appearance in the three-year Bronco Mendenhall-era is only Virginia’s second bowl appearance since 2011. Mendenhall, who won 99 games in 11 seasons at BYU, has turned around the UVa program. A bowl win would be a big deal in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers were crushed by Navy in last year’s Military Bowl, extending their bowl winless streak to 12 years.
Three Virginia players to watch
1. Virginia’s seven wins are its most since 2011 and a big reason why is quarterback Bryce Perkins. The former Arizona State Sun Devil transferred to UVa from junior college last January and has been the the dual-threat QB Mendenhall desired. Perkins has already set a school record with 3,314 yards of offense.
2. Perkins’ favorite target is Olamide Zaccheaus. The All-ACC selection is Virginia’s all-time leader in receptions. He’s got 81 grabs for 958 yards and six scores this season, making the speedy 5-foot-8 Zaccheaus one to watch against USC’s depleted secondary.
3. The best NFL prospect in this game might be on the Virginia side. Cornerback Bryce Hall is projected as a first round pick, according to CBS Sports. The physical 6-1, 200-pounder leads the nation with 20 pass breakups.