COLUMBIA - Steve Spurrier knows the challenge his team faces as it prepares for yet another bowl game in Florida.
With a third straight 10-win regular season, it's human nature for South Carolina players to expect some greater prize. A BCS bowl berth, perhaps. Maybe something more.
Alabama is the only other SEC team to win at least 10 games three straight years. The Tide turned its past three regular seasons into two national championships and a Sugar Bowl appearance this winter against Oklahoma. The Gamecocks have yet to play in one BCS bowl game.
Instead, South Carolina will play in the Capital One Bowl for the second time in three seasons. It's a very nice destination, with warm weather in Orlando and a high payout for participating teams. It's also considered a cut below the elite.
Players report to their first bowl minicamp practice Monday afternoon, and all attention will be on Wisconsin. Spurrier knows a BCS bowl game offers more "status." Regardless, he made it clear last week his team will be motivated for its New Year's Day game against Wisconsin.
"We have no difficulty getting up for bowl games," Spurrier said. "I think all of us have learned across the country now, you're as good as your last game, and the game they talk about is the bowl game. That's the game they talk about."
South Carolina learned that lesson a year ago.
The hype generated with USC's win over Michigan - especially Jadeveon Clowney's highlight-smashing hit on tailback Vincent Smith - carried the program through the summer months. Spurrier believes it was a major reason his young team was ranked No. 6 in preseason polls.
He also believes The Hit generated interest because of when it happened, not simply because it happened.
"If Jadeveon Clowney had made that hit in the first game of the season last year, nobody talks about it all year - but he made it in the bowl game," Spurrier said. "That was the last game, so we watched it for, what, 10 months until the season started. So whatever we do in that bowl game will be recorded and rehearsed, gone over and over for about eight, nine months."
The Gamecocks (10-2) and Badgers (9-3) have reasons to lack motivation this bowl season. USC is playing its third straight New Year's Day bowl game inside the state of Florida. For the first time in three years, the Badgers won't be playing in the Rose Bowl.
Despite that, expect South Carolina and Wisconsin to be focused over the next half month.
With a young team, the Gamecocks are hoping to build momentum into an important offseason. The Badgers hope to erase the bitter taste left after a shocking home loss to Penn State.
"I want them to have an enjoyable experience. It is important to me," Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen said. "I want them to be prepared when they walk out on the field. I want to play well. So, you combine those all together, and it gets a little tricky to get the schedule the right way."
It's a challenge South Carolina recently mastered under Spurrier.
The Gamecocks have won their past two bowl games, both against Big Ten opponents. Senior quarterback Connor Shaw said his team has prepared well, focusing on the task at hand. It takes motivated players to execute in these December practices.
Shaw doesn't expect anything to change.
"I think the last couple of years, we've done a great job of treating this like a business trip. It will be no different this year," Shaw said. "For seniors, this is our last game playing in a Carolina uniform. So we hope to take advantage of it and finish with a win."
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