COLUMBIA — While South Carolina won’t know its bowl fate until after next weekend’s Southeastern Conference Championship game, the Gamecocks’ convincing win over Clemson on Saturday night helped their cause with Outback Bowl officials.
The Gamecocks will likely end up in either the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Fla., or the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 6 in Arlington, Texas.
South Carolina’s 34-13 win over Clemson gave the Gamecocks the kind of momentum that bowl officials crave.
“This win certainly helps,” said Bruce Poli, who serves on the board of directors for the Tampa-based Outback Bowl. “Beating your biggest rival is huge. It gets the fan base excited. Picking a team a lot of times comes down to how the fan base feels about the team. South Carolina is coming off a big win and has won 10 games, and you’ve got to think they’re going to be excited about going to a bowl game.”
The thinking when it comes to bowls goes something like this: Assuming that LSU and Alabama will meet in the BCS championship game, Arkansas should get the nod over Georgia for the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2 in Orlando, Fla.
With three SEC West teams off the board, the Outback Bowl would have the next pick and most likely pick between South Carolina and Georgia. If the Outback Bowl passes on the Gamecocks, they would end up in the Cotton Bowl.
“We don’t feel like we’ll have the opportunity at any SEC West teams,” Poli said. “I think it’s going to come down to Georgia and South Carolina. Our executive director will talk with the executive director of the Cotton Bowl after next week’s SEC title game. Since there are two SEC East teams, we’ll try and work with the Cotton Bowl, so both bowls get the teams they want.
How well the Bulldogs do in the SEC title game against LSU will also be a factor, Poli said. “We’ll look at the championship game and see how Georgia plays,” Poli said. “The game committee will look at the result and that will factor in the decision.”
The fact that South Carolina beat Georgia, 45-42, back in September doesn’t hurt the Gamecocks’ chances of landing in the Tampa bowl.
“That’s certainly one of the things we’ll take into consideration,” Poli said. “Head to head isn’t the only factor, but it’ll play a role in the committee’s decision.”
The biggest factor will be fan support and the momentum that each team generated going into bowl season. Since starting the season 0-2, Georgia has reeled off 10 straight wins, while the Gamecocks swept the SEC East and beat the rival Bulldogs.
Representatives from the Cotton Bowl have not watched South Carolina play since the Gamecocks’ 44-28 loss to Arkansas earlier in the month, according to USC sports information director Steve Fink.
Meanwhile, if Clemson beats Virginia Tech in next week’s ACC title game, the Tigers would play in the Orange Bowl for the first time since winning the national title in 1981.
A loss to Hokies would mean the Tigers will most likely play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve.