Josh Kendall: South Carolina's bowl outlook
That would be a tough exclamation for most South Carolina fans to get out of their mouths, but Georgia’s success in the closing games of the season now is the second-most important factor in determining what kind of bowl game the Gamecocks will get to this year.
The most important factor will be the outcome of the season finale against Clemson, of course, but the Bulldogs winning the SEC championship game would help because now it looks like that’s the only way the conference will get two teams into the College Football Playoff. A Georgia win over an undefeated Alabama team probably would clinch that for the league, which moves everyone else up one spot in the pecking order.
Here’s the quick cheat sheet for South Carolina fans:
Root for: Georgia
Root against: Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M
As it stands now, here are five bowls the Gamecocks could reach this season, ranked from most prestigious to least:
This is the second-best SEC bowl game outside the New Year’s Six structure (the CFB semifinals, which are the Sugar and Rose bowls this year, the Peach Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl), and the Gamecocks will need to beat Clemson to get here. There doesn’t appear to be any path for South Carolina to get into the Citrus Bowl (the top non-New Year’s Six game with an SEC affliation), but a win over a Tigers team that probably will be in the CFB Playoff top four will the consideration for the Tampa game.
Tax Slayer Bowl
The former Gator Bowl has the distinction of being a “Florida bowl,” which is an age-old indicator that your football team had a pretty good year. A win over Clemson would get the Gamecocks over the log jam of LSU, Mississippi State and Texas A&M out west and get them to at least this game. With a loss to the Tigers, this is probably the ceiling for South Carolina. Lots of national projections this week like this spot for South Carolina.
Music City Bowl
This spot makes a lot of sense. South Carolina has never played in the Nashville, Tenn., bowl game, which matches the SEC against a Big Ten or ACC opponent. One reason predicting bowl games is tricky business is matchup issues. For instance, some projections have N.C. State as the ACC opponent in this game, which wouldn’t make for a very compelling matchup with the Gamecocks because those two teams played to open the season.
The Belk Bowl may technically be a notch below the Texas Bowl, but this is the spot in the pecking order where geography starts to be an even bigger factor, and it makes sense to send an East team to Charlotte for this game and a West team to Houston, Texas, for that game if the teams are pretty even.
The SEC faces a Big 12 team in this game, and a game against West Virginia would be interesting for Will Muschamp’s defense, but this is a long way to send a team from the Eastern Division when there will be a Western Division team with a similar resumé available.
Josh Kendall’s SEC Bowl Predictions
CFB Playoff: Alabama
Outback: Mississippi State
Tax Slayer: LSU
Music City: South Carolina
Liberty: Texas A&M
Independence: Stay Tuned*
*At the moment, the SEC doesn’t look like it will have enough teams with the requisite six wins for bowl eligibility.