The South Carolina Gamecocks remain a legitimate option for a BCS bid after improving to 8-2 on Saturday.
With a win over the Arkansas Razorbacks, Steve Spurrier's team can expect to stay in the the BCS top 10 and in position to receive an at-large berth. The Gamecocks entered this weekend ranked No. 8 in the BCS and No. 11 in the coaches' and Harris polls, so it's reasonable to anticipate a slight rise before next week.
Considering that the Louisville Cardinals, who were ranked ahead of the Gamecocks in the Harris and coaches' polls, were blown out by Syracuse, and the Florida Gators struggled to defeat Louisiana-Lafayette, South Carolina is looking quite appealing. In addition, Florida State narrowly escaped an upset loss at Virginia Tech.
In short, even factoring in the absence of running back Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks may deserve BCS recognition. Here, let's break down South Carolina and see if a BCS spot is realistic.
No Bad Losses
At 8-2, South Carolina's only losses were to Florida and LSU on the road, and the Gamecocks nearly beat the Bayou Bengals.
Yes, Florida did totally demolished South Carolina in The Swamp. Still, that came after a tough loss to LSU, and Steve Spurrier's team has bounced back with two straight wins. Defeating Tennessee and Arkansas was not unexpected: But we can't dismiss those wins, either.
We saw South Carolina play quite well after Lattimore's injury last season, and the same is proving to be true in 2012.
Impact of Victory Over Georgia
As of right now, the Georgia Bulldogs are South Carolina's best win. Smashing the Bulldogs 35-7 is quite impressive.
And with the Dawgs going on to upset Florida, it's possible the Gamecocks will own a victory over the eventual SEC champions. From a strength-of-schedule perspective, that keeps South Carolina alive in and of itself.
Also, that win increases the importance of Connor Shaw and company's season-ending showdown with Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Tigers. Clemson entered the weekend 8-1 and No. 13 in the BCS, with its lone loss at Florida State.
So, provided that Clemson keeps winning and is 10-1 when facing South Carolina, that becomes another big contest. As a result, the Gamecocks can finish 10-2 with two victories over teams in or near the BCS top 10.
By then, Spurrier could potentially find his team near the top five.
Non-BCS Schools Not Threatening
One interesting aspect about the 2012 college football season is the lack of attractive non-BCS qualifiers. When the weekend began, Louisiana Tech was 8-1 and ranked No. 20 in the BCS. That is the highest of any team outside the six power conferences.
Over the past decade, we've seen plenty of non-automatic qualifiers crash the party. Utah, Boise State and TCU are the most notable, while Hawaii snuck in once.
The absence of a similar team this season is helping South Carolina. Taking away the possibility of a non-BCS school earning an at-large berth increases the Gamecocks' chances.
Ohio State being ineligible for bowl season also helps South Carolina. The Buckeyes are 10-0 and No. 5 in the AP poll this week.
Obviously, nothing is set in stone, but South Carolina is still alive for a BCS berth, especially if the Gamecocks finish 10-2 and Georgia wins the SEC outright.
Follow John Rozum on Twitter.