South Carolina football fans suddenly have some free time on their hands this weekend. Maybe they can become amateur administrators.
The Gamecocks announced Wednesday that they are canceling Saturday’s scheduled game against Marshall because of the potential impact of Hurricane Florence. That leaves them with only 11 games this season, at least for now.
South Carolina will try to get a 12th game back on the schedule, but that’s easier said than done.
“It’s way too early to start speculating what might happen, but we will take a look,” athletics director Ray Tanner said Wednesday during an interview with 107.5 The Game in Columbia. “We will probably pursue playing that 12th game if possible.”
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There seem to be a lot of qualifiers in that statement, which indicates that a 12th game is far from a certainty at this point, but let’s look at the options. There are only two really — Oct. 20, the Gamecocks’ regularly scheduled bye week, and Dec. 1 if the Gamecocks don’t qualify for the SEC Championship Game.
If South Carolina wants to play on Oct. 20, and coach Will Muschamp may not, considering that’s right between games against Texas A&M and Tennessee, the pool of possible opponents is limited. Also with open weeks that day are Georgia, Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Texas, Oklahoma State, Florida, Texas A&M, Kansas State, Boston College, Iowa State, Louisville and Northern Illinois, but only two teams in that group would have the ability to play another game because they also had games canceled by weather this weekend.
That would be West Virginia and Virginia Tech, which would seem like great matchups for South Carolina fans but might not seem like great matchups for Muschamp at that point in the season. It’s extremely doubtful the Gamecocks would play on the road for an extra game, and West Virginia and Virginia Tech would each require a trip there either this year or on a return basis. So this option doesn’t make a ton of sense.
The Gamecocks would have a lot more opponent options on Dec. 1 because most teams have completed their regular season by then. Of course, South Carolina would rather have a different game that day, but school officials could sign an opponent based on the contingency they are available that day. (Williams-Brice is scheduled to hold high school state championship games on Dec. 1 at the moment.)
At that point, South Carolina could play Marshall (unless the Herd makes the Conference USA title game) or any other team that ended up with 11 games for the season. Nebraska and Akron had to cancel their game in Week 1 due to weather, so maybe the Zips could be an option.
All of this is to say that adding a 12th game is far from a certainty at this point. The two reasons South Carolina will be motivated to do so are money and bowl eligibility. The Gamecocks were expected to make between $2 million and $2.5 million from hosting the game, but as the 15th-most profitable football program in the country, they can absorb that loss if necessary.
Bowl eligibility is a touchier subject.
Football Bowl Subdivision teams need six wins to be bowl eligible, and if South Carolina needs an extra game to get a sixth win at the end of this season, Gamecocks fans will be worried about a lot more than who the opponent is going to be. As for how being one-win short might affect South Carolina in bowl positioning, don’t worry too much about that. With the SEC office controlling so much of the bowl placement process below the top games, the Gamecocks won’t be penalized if they end up with eight wins instead of nine due to a lost game.
South Carolina could find an FCS opponent to play on either date if it waved enough money around, but it already has one game scheduled against an FCS team (Chattanooga, Nov. 17) and the NCAA only allows one to count toward bowl eligibility, so the only real value in that would be whatever the Gamecocks could make at the gate and practice snaps for Muschamp’s team.
The university issued a statement about tickets on Thursday: “The University is closed due to the impact of Hurricane Florence. We will issue ticket refunds for the Marshall game. Details on that timeline and process will follow once the University reopens.”
Muschamp did not address the media following Wednesday’s announcement that the Marshall game was canceled but is expected to speak Thursday night on his weekly call-in show, so we’ll find out then what thoughts he has on the subject. Until then (and after then), stay safe everybody.
South Carolina 2018 football schedule
Sept. 1 South Carolina 49, Coastal Carolina 15
Sept. 8 Georgia 41, South Carolina 17
Sept. 15 Marshall // CANCELED
Sept. 22 at Vanderbilt*, 4 pm (SEC Network)
Sept. 29 at Kentucky*
Oct. 6 Missouri*
Oct. 13 Texas A&M*
Oct. 27 Tennessee*
Nov. 3 at Ole Miss*
Nov. 10 at Florida*
Nov. 17 Chattanooga
Nov. 24 at Clemson