The Clemson Tigers would be a complete lock for the Sugar Bowl and a second BCS berth in as many years if they can beat the South Carolina Gamecocks during their rivalry game. Clemson has been an excellent football team this year, and the best consolation prize on a year without a conference title would be a BCS berth.
Winning versus the Gamecocks is more than crucial
Clemson right now sits at No. 11 in the BCS standings while South Carolina is at No. 9. With a victory over the Gamecocks, the Tigers will send South Carolina to a likely Chik-fil-A Bowl berth versus either Georgia Tech, Miami or even North Carolina State.
However, Clemson needs to earn the win. With a win, they would be 11-1 with their only loss to the eventual ACC champion. They would also have a win over a team that was in the BCS Top 10 and would move themselves into the BCS Top 10.
By earning the 10th spot in the BCS and being 11-1 versus a tough schedule, they would be a lock. However, at 10-2 with no quality wins and losses to the only ranked teams they would have played, Clemson would likely wind up in the Gator Bowl.
Projecting the BCS automatic qualifiers and possible at-large teams
The automatic-qualifying conferences are still intact this season. As it sits right now, the following teams would earn their automatic-qualifying berths:
- Florida State or either Georgia Tech or Miami by winning the ACC Championship game.
- Alabama or Georgia by winning the SEC Championship game.
- Wisconsin or either Nebraska or Michigan by winning the B1G Championship game.
- Oregon or UCLA by winning the Pac-12 championship.
- Either Rutgers or Louisville by winning the final game of the season in a de facto Big East Championship game.
- Kansas State, the Big 12 champion.
Add in Notre Dame, as one of the qualification rules states that if they are in the Top Eight of the final BCS standings, they are guaranteed a spot, which reduces the at-large spots to just three (h/t CollegeFootballPoll.com).
Should all the favorites earn the championships and Oregon and Kansas State remain undefeated, the bowl matchups should be as follows:
Rose Bowl: Nebraska (B1G champion) vs. Notre Dame (automatic)
Orange Bowl: Rutgers/Louisville (Big East champion) vs. Florida State (ACC champion)
Sugar Bowl: Alabama/Georgia (SEC champion) vs. At large
Fiesta Bowl: At large vs. At large
BCS Championship game: Oregon (Pac-12 champion) vs. Kansas State (Big 12 champion)
Taking out the conference champions and the next three teams are all SEC teams. With the BCS having a rule that states:
No more than two teams from a conference may be selected, regardless of whether they are automatic qualifiers or at-large selections, unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings.
That means Clemson, the loser of the SEC Championship game and either Oklahoma or Stanford should be the final three at-large teams when going by the current BCS Standings (h/t ESPN). If Alabama does win the SEC title, the Fiesta bowl could prove to be a more interesting fit for them then Georgia.
The Sugar Bowl could also pass on the potential Alabama-Clemson matchup for a more rivalry-oriented Georgia-Clemson game.
Clemson versus Georgia is an extremely attractive matchup for the Sugar Bowl
Clemson and Georgia are both great teams this season. Should Georgia win the SEC Championship game versus Alabama, it would be a no-brainer for the Sugar Bowl to bring them in. Clemson would have to make sure they have just one loss to make themselves an appealing candidate.
Clemson and Georgia have a history that was most relevant in 1982 when Herschel Walker and Georgia almost won a national title after beating Clemson in Athens for Clemson's only loss that year. Clemson won a national title the year before after beating UGA in Death Valley.
This year's game would be a throwback to those years, as Georgia is led by a pair of running backs referred to as "Gurshall." And Clemson has been one of the best teams in the country despite a close loss to Florida State at Doak Walker.
Nonetheless, if Clemson wants to be in the BCS, they can't coast to the Sugar Bowl. They have to beat the South Carolina Gamecocks. If they do beat the Gamecocks, they will be going to a BCS game in back-to-back years.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL Draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.