With conference championships settled and the College Football Playoff spots filled, the South Carolina Gamecocks finally learned their bowl destination and opponent on Sunday evening: USC will make the short trip to Charlotte’s Duke’s Mayo Bowl to face the familiar North Carolina Tar Heels on Thursday, Dec. 30, at the bright and early hour of 11:30 a.m.
The Tar Heels, who also finished 6-6 with a 3-5 ACC mark, began the season in the top 10 and with considerable Heisman hype for quarterback Sam Howell. An immediate and underwhelming 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech derailed that train, and UNC wrapped up a head-scratching season with a disappointing fifth-place finish in the ACC’s Coastal division. The Tar Heels were also losers on rivalry weekend, falling 34-30 to N.C. State in one of college football’s wildest games all year.
Speaking of Howell, though, he still put together a nice season (2,851 yards and a gaudy 23:9 touchdown to interception ratio), and as one of the clear best quarterbacks South Carolina will face all season, is the biggest and most immediate area of concern for the Gamecocks. But there’s speculation he may opt out of the bowl for NFL Draft prep, and here’s an interesting tweet from The State’s Ben Portnoy, which positions this game as similar to the one against Missouri. Stoppable force versus movable object?
Some numbers to consider —>— Ben Portnoy (@bportnoy15) December 5, 2021
South Carolina's offensive rankings nationally:
- No. 115 in total offense
- No. 96 in passing offense
- No. 103 in rushing offense
UNC's defensive rankings nationally:
- No. 89 in total defense
- No. 81 in passing defense
- No. 94 in rushing defense
The Xs and Os of the matchup aside, I have to say I find myself pretty bored by this selection. These teams have played three times since 2013, all in Charlotte, and are scheduled to meet again in the Queen City in 2023. (There’s also the fact that USC’s previous bowl berth was also to the Charlotte bowl, and was a miserable blanking by Virginia that I’d rather not relive in this space.) The best part of bowl season is getting the chance to see weird, interesting matchups that are otherwise not possible during the regular season because of geography, a lack of relationships between the schools, and so on. On paper, I can see how a bowl committee would eagerly arrange this — folks not connected to either school seem to think there’s a Big Contentious Rivalry afoot (when, at least in my opinion and read of the situation, there’s really not), and given the proximity of both to Charlotte, it has all the markers of what should be a sellout. But Gamecocks fans especially have reason to be suffering from Charlotte fatigue, given the team’s most recent results in Bank of America Stadium. I hate to complain, since this is South Carolina’s first bowl bid in three years, but a little more imagination with this selection would have been appreciated.
At any rate, the bowl’s official Twitter account is pretty excited, at least.
How are y’all feeling about this?