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The trophy's nice, but a BCS game would be nicer.
What would a Chick-fil-A Bowl win mean to these two programs?
Sure, a 10-win season would be nice for either squad. That'll look good and leave a nice taste in the returning players' mouths come spring ball.
But these are two programs at major crossroads in their conferences. Each team, as stated, was a win away from a BCS bowl.
Each will not like settling for runner-up status again next season, and a loss could give credence to a "second-best" mentality in any program. But there are other reasons why a loss would hurt either team here.
Let's think of it this way. South Carolina, for example, is in the running for the nation's No. 1 recruit, Jadeveon Clowney. Would a loss here help the Gamecocks land him or hurt them, especially if their rival in the Clowney sweepstakes, Alabama, takes care of Michigan State? So recruiting issues are at risk here too. In fact, Spurrier referred to recruiting in his bowl press conference.
Florida being one of the hottest and most contested recruiting states, you'd think FSU would have more to lose here despite winning the mythical "state championship" this year.
True, teams can return from a devastating bowl loss and succeed the following year; Alabama last year, anyone?
Yet a defeat for either team means relegation to the middle of the pack in that team's conference. Finishing 9-5 for South Carolina would add to the frustration surrounding the program and take much of the shine off an otherwise great season for the Gamecocks.
For Florida State, a loss would be seen as an indicator that the ACC is still the SEC's vastly inferior little brother. It would solidify the concept that the Seminoles are not nearly as good as other ACC teams such as Virginia Tech or North Carolina or that they still can't play with the "big boys" (as Oklahoma tried to prove early on).
Thus, there's much more at stake here than a bowl game trophy.