The Gamecocks have had their eyes set on the SEC East all season long. They once controlled their own destiny in the quest for a championship but now must hope for some help from one of their enemies.
South Carolina's loss to Arkansas over the weekend propelled Georgia to the front of the SEC East race and likely will play a role in the Gamecocks bowl game this postseason.
This will be the eighth straight year that South Carolina has been bowl eligible dating back to the 2004 season—the last of the Lou Holtz era. The Gamecocks declined a bowl bid that year due to the fight with the Clemson Tigers, but it was the start of a new run in South Carolina football history.
Steve Spurrier has guided the Gamecocks to five bowl games in six years as the South Carolina head football coach and will have his Gamecocks in another bowl game after the 2011 season.
There appear to be a few different options for the Gamecocks at this time, so let's run through a few different scenarios for South Carolina for bowl projections in 2011.
The Cotton Bowl is the bowl game mentioned so far that many analysts have predicted South Carolina to garner a bowl bid. ESPN and CBSSports.com both have projections of South Carolina in The Cotton Bowl at this point.
This type of scenario seems likely to play out if the Gamecocks find a way to finish with nine or 10 wins in the regular season but don't make the SEC championship game.
The Cotton Bowl is played in Dallas, Texas, so the travel accommodations for Gamecock fans might be tough to make for this bowl game, but this is one of the premier bowl games not attached to the BCS.
The main teams that appear vying for the Cotton Bowl would be Arkansas, South Carolina and Georgia. The Cotton Bowl usually takes a team from the West but with LSU and Alabama headed to the BCS, the options are thin outside of Arkansas in the West.
The Razorbacks could be headed to the Capital One Bowl and thus leaving Georgia and South Carolina to battle it out, and if the Gamecocks have a better overall record and the head-to-head matchup over UGA, then they could end up being The Cotton Bowl option.
It would be very nice reward for a solid season for the Gamecocks.
The Outback Bowl and the Gamecocks have had themselves quite a history since the year 2000.
South Carolina has made appearances in the Outback Bowl in 2001, 2002 and 2009. South Carolina won back-to-back over Ohio State in 2001 and 2002 but was defeated handily by the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2009.
The close proximity to Columbia is a big reason for the Gamecocks to have made this trip three times in the past 10 years. South Carolina also travels well and made themselves known in their first two Outback Bowl appearances.
South Carolina could end up in the Outback Bowl again if they finish the season with at least eight wins and the Capital One Bowl and Cotton Bowl selecting Arkansas and Georgia for their bowl games.
This seems to be a likely destination for the Gamecocks in the upcoming bowl season.
The Gator Bowl renewed an affiliation with the SEC last season but South Carolina has some previous history playing in The Gator Bowl.
The Gamecocks played in the 1946, 1980, 1984, and 1987 Gator Bowls in their program history. All games were losses for the Gamecocks at the time.
This bowl game is slotted in the number six slot in the SEC bowl hierarchy so there's a chance South Carolina could have been chosen for a different bowl game when The Gator Bowl makes their selection.
Jacksonville plays host to the Gator Bowl and is really a short drive from Columbia, South Carolina. This could easily be a trip that Gamecock fans could get behind with its short distance and warm weather.
South Carolina could be an option for the Gator Bowl already with their seven wins on the season, and anything more than eight probably eliminates the Gamecocks from Gator Bowl consideration.
The Gamecocks most likely won't play in the Gator Bowl this year. So far, it appears to be Florida as the most logical choice for the Gator Bowl.
I will say, though, that it's a more likely choice for South Carolina than the Capital One Bowl or a BCS bowl bid for the Gamecocks.
South Carolina played in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl following their 2010 season, and there is an outside chance that the Gamecocks could find themselves there for the 2011 season as well.
The Chick-Fil-A Bowl usually chooses in the No. 5 slot in the SEC bowl selection process, so it's a prime bowl for an SEC school to be featured in. This bowl game is generally the only bowl game played on New Year's Eve year in and year out, so the entire country will be watching this football game.
It also features a game against a quality opponent in the ACC. The loser of the ACC championship game usually appears in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. A few recent teams include Florida State, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
The most likely scenario for South Carolina to land in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl is to finish the season with eight wins and for Arkansas and Georgia to be picked for bowl games already. This would likely leave the Gamecocks battling with a team like Auburn or Florida for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
The close proximity and the fact that the Gamecocks appeared in this game last year could cause bowl officials to select Auburn to this game in 2011.
This doesn't seem like a scenario that will play out for the Gamecocks considering they should be chosen in one of the higher-profile bowl games by the time the Chick-Fil-A Bowl makes its selection.
The Capital One Bowl would be another fantastic bowl option for the Gamecocks but one that could be out of the reach for the Gamecocks this bowl season.
The SEC's top bowl option outside of the BCS bowls will have some intriguing options this season. The SEC is pretty much guaranteed to have two teams in the BCS this year. The most likely scenario of those two teams will be Alabama and LSU. This could leave some very viable options for this bowl game with the Gamecocks being in the mix.
The best way for that to happen for South Carolina is to win out to finish at 10-2 and win the SEC East by having Georgia lose another SEC game. The Gamecocks would most likely fall to the SEC West opponent in the SEC Championship game leaving them as a viable candidate for The Capital One Bowl.
South Carolina would probably battle Arkansas for the Capital One Bowl in this option, and the geographic location of Columbia to Orlando could play a big role in the Gamecocks receiving a bid to the Capital One Bowl.
This, so far, seems to be an option that most likely won't happen for South Carolina.
Chalk this up to the "Wish List" category for the Gamecocks. It's the holiday season after all!
South Carolina can make the BCS for the first time in school history if the following things happen:
- South Carolina defeats Florida, The Citadel and Clemson to finish the season 10-2
- The Gamecocks get a little help from the Auburn Tigers with the Tigers beating the Georgia Bulldogs to give Georgia two losses in the SEC. This would enable South Carolina to win the SEC East as they hold the tiebreaker over the Georgia Bulldogs.
- Defeat either Arkansas, LSU or Alabama in the SEC championship game in Atlanta to win the SEC Championship.
Obviously, this is an unlikely scenario to play out. It's not that the Gamecocks can't defeat their remaining three opponents. It's more unlikely that Auburn defeats Georgia this weekend and also unlikely for the Gamecocks to beat the SEC West division winner in the SEC Championship Game.
Crazier things have happened, but this has to be considered the absolute best-case scenario for the Gamecocks, and this probably won't happen.
South Carolina's bowl chances really hinge on how things finish in 2011.
The Gamecocks have a chance to win out and get to 10 wins on the season with a several quality wins on their resume. It would certainly put them in the mix for one of the top SEC bowl games outside of the BCS like the Capital One Bowl.
If South Carolina is able to win two of their next three games then a bowl bid could happen for The Outback Bowl or The Cotton Bowl.
If the Gamecocks only win one of their next three games then they could still land a bid to the Outback Bowl, Chick-Fil-A Bowl or even the Gator Bowl.
Bowl bids are hard to project at this stage because there are so many variables left that could propel South Carolina to different bowl games.
The good news for the Gamecocks is they are going bowling. This much is a fact. It's funny how much things have changed in Columbia when just a few years ago South Carolina was hoping to get bowl eligible at this point in the season.
Now, we have to play the waiting game.