Virginia coach Bronco Mendendall believes how a football team perceives a bowl game affects how it plays in that bowl game.
We’ll find out on Dec. 29 how the Cavaliers and South Carolina feel about the Belk Bowl. Both teams will be trying to get their eighth win when they meet at noon in Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.
“For both teams, eight looks a lot better than seven,” Mendenhall said. “There is a lot at stake. I think you’ll find two really hungry football teams that think this game is meaningful, important and impactful. Our team is wildly excited about this matchup with South Carolina. They view it as an occasion to rise to.”
Gamecocks center Donell Stanley views it as just another football game, which he says is plenty of motivation.
“You prepare the same way,” said Stanley, who hasn’t yet announced if this will be his last game in a South Carolina uniform or if he’ll return next season. “You don’t look at it as a special game. It’s another game to play and we want to win.”
South Carolina has won eight games or more in a season 14 times in its previous 125 years of football. The Gamecocks (7-5) are 5.5-point favorites to get that eighth win next week.
“Eight and five looks a lot better than 7-6,” senior quarterback Michael Scarnecchia said. “It doesn’t really matter what bowl game it is for us. (Head coach Will) Muschamp has done a really good job of getting our team ready for any game, whatever the game may be, big game, small game. We take every game the same way and we’re going to go out there and prepare and we’re going to treat it like it’s the national championship.”
The Gamecocks are 9-13 all-time in bowl games after winning five of their last six. South Carolina will holds it final practice of the season in Columbia on Saturday morning and then reconvene in Charlotte on Tuesday evening.
“If a guy suits up and is not motivated to play, there is something wrong with that guy,” tight end Kiel Pollard said. “Everybody is ready to play. We all compete.”
The outcome of a bowl game can affect offseason attitude, Muschamp said.
“You want to win your last ball game,” he said. “A victorious locker room is better than the other way. It’s that as much as anything.”