Now that we've taken out the Tigers, it's time to start thinking about our bowl prospects. While the win over Clemson was nice, we're unfortunately out of the running for a New Year's Day bowl. Shreveport and Memphis are probably out, as well, as those bowls will divvy up Auburn and Arkansas due to geographical concerns. That leaves the Peach Bowl, the Music City Bowl, and the Papa John's Bowl. Let's take a look at our chances for each one.
The Peach (aka Chick-fil-A) Bowl
Sorry, Gamecocks fans: although the bowl's officials are playing nice with Carolina, the word is that the Gamecocks best possible bowl destination is likely in the market for an UGA-VA Tech matchup. I don't think this bowl is completely out of the picture for us; a lot depends on the ACCCG outcome. A GA Tech victory probably means that the Dawgs and Hokies will get the bid. However, I think it's possible that a Clemson win in the ACCCG could prompt Chick-fil-A to go with GA Tech, spurn UGA, and match us up with the Yellowjackets. That's still a bit unlikely, though. The Jackets played in Atlanta last year and would be coming off two losses, and I suspect those factors would steer Chick-fil-A away from Tech and back towards the UGA-VA Tech pairing. All in all, I think this bowl is a long shot for us. While we'd probably be a good draw, we're just not as attractive to Chick-fil-A as UGA, who is a hometown favorite and finished ahead of us in the standings.
The Music City Bowl
This is probably the bowl the Gamecocks deserve, as this one typically takes the best available lower-tier SEC East team. However, a bid here is far from certain. Although we finished ahead of the Wildcats in the standings by virtue of a head-to-head win, the MCB doesn't have to choose us over UK, and it likes the 'Cats because they traveled well two straight years in 2006 and 2007. The bowl does not appear to be averse to taking Kentucky again, neither because the 'Cats finished below us or because they have been to the MCB so frequently of late. Personally, I expect you'll see Kentucky go to Nashville, but I could be wrong. One factor going in our favor is that the organizers may jump at the chance to match us up against UNC, which would be an attractive bowl to both Gamecocks and Tar Heels fans.
The Papa John's Bowl
The Papa John's Bowl is, frankly, a lower bowl than we deserve. It's also a fairly unattractive bowl, being in an old stadium on the wrong side of the tracks in Birmingham and featuring a matchup against a lower-tier Big East team. However, there's a very good chance that this is where we'll end up if the Peach and MCB pass on us. Our likely opponent here would likely be UConn. Rutgers or South Florida are also unlikely possibilities.
Frankly, I think we're going to end up in Birmingham. That may not be a terribly attractive draw, but it does have a couple of things going for it. First of all, Birmingham isn't too far from Columbia, so while I expect a lot of people will stay home because of the locale, I expect others will choose to go because it will be a short, inexpensive trip. I also, believe it or not, like the idea of playing a Big East team. While beating GA or VA Tech in the Peach or UNC in the MCB would be more satisfying, I also feel like a game against UConn is probably a more likely win, and this young team could use that momentum going into the offseason.
Whatever happens--and obviously there will more to say about this over the next few weeks--I think that if we can win whichever game we draw, we can call this season a moderate success.
So, which game would you like to see us in? And which one will we get?