Gamecocks' bowl menu: Chicken or steak?

jkendall@thestate.comNovember 12, 2012 

The Gamecocks enter the field for the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Florida State on Friday.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

As Thanksgiving nears, every college football fan with a laptop is cranking out college football bowl projections, and many of them agree that South Carolina and its fans should be prepared for two things, playing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl ... and losing the Clemson.

More on the second point later, but first, where will the No. 12 Gamecocks be headed when the regular season is finished in two weeks?

Three prognosticators from ESPN.com, one from SI.com and one at SBNation all believe South Carolina will play in the Georgia Dome in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on Dec. 31. That would make the Gamecocks the fifth selection from the SEC and pit it against an ACC school (N.C. State or Georgia Tech are possible opponents).

CBSSports.com and Phil Steele project South Carolina one notch higher in the bowl pecking order in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. That game is being played on Jan. 1 and would pit the Gamecocks against a Big Ten team (Wisconsin or Michigan).

South Carolina is 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC after Saturday’s 38-20 trouncing of Arkansas. The Gamecocks are No. 9 in the BCS rankings, behind five SEC schools. Alabama (No. 4), Georgia (No. 5), Florida (No. 6), LSU (No. 7) and Texas A&M (No. 8) all rank higher in the conference than the Gamecocks and are in line for more high-profile bowl trips.

Georgia has locked up a spot in the SEC title game. The Bulldogs’ only loss was a 35-7 defeat by South Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks have beaten the Bulldogs in each of the last two seasons only to watch Georgia rebound to win the division, but coach Steve Spurrier doesn’t begrudge the Bulldogs their title, he said.

“They were a good team that just had a bad night, had a terrible night (against South Carolina), and we played probably our top game of the year,” Spurrier said. “Sometimes it can go like that but they regrouped, give Coach (Mark) Richt and his staff and players credit. They have won them all since they left here. Their schedule was favorable, and that’s the way it is sometimes. All you can do is try to do the best you can each week. It worked out for the Bulldogs and didn’t work out for us this year.”

Four of the SEC’s five teams have rivalry games remaining on their schedule that could shake up their seasons and postseason destinations. Alabama plays Auburn, Georgia plays Georgia Tech, Florida plays Florida State, and the Gamecocks take on Clemson.

This week’s bowl projections make it clear that many of the predictors believe the Tigers will snap their three-game losing streak to South Carolina this year. The two teams will meet Nov. 24 in Death Valley, where Clemson is undefeated this season.

ESPN.com, SI.com, CBSSports.com and SBNation all project Clemson will play in the Sugar Bowl as an at-large selection to the BCS. That would not happen following a loss in the final game of the regular season.

Phil Steele is the only major prognosticator who likes South Carolina to extend its ownership of the series. Steele believes Clemson will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

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