After a year absence from the bowl discussion, the Gamecocks found out their postseason destination on Sunday afternoon. South Carolina will take on the South Florida Bulls in the Birmingham Bowl on Thursday, December 29 at 2:00 pm ET on ESPN.
South Florida finished the 2016 campaign with a 10-2 mark and a 2nd place finish in the American Athletic Conference’s East division. This is only the second meeting between the two teams; the Gamecocks won the previous matchup, 34-3, on September 18, 2004.
A lower-tier game looked to be in the cards for the Gamecocks after a 6-6 record that saw them need a win over FCS Western Carolina to achieve bowl eligibility. The thinking was that they would end up in either Birmingham or Shreveport, with a smattering of fans hoping that a trip up I-77 to Charlotte and the Belk Bowl was still within the realm of possibility. In fact, per Josh Kendall at The State, Ray Tanner had submitted requests to four bowls, one being the Belk Bowl and the other three being unnamed - likely the Birmingham Bowl, Independence Bowl in Shreveport, and the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. But, in my eyes, the Belk Bowl window of opportunity closed a few weeks back, and as Kendall noted, they’d likely would have had to jump a seven-win team to get to Charlotte (hello, #BERT and Arkansas).
But a bowl appearance is better than none at all. This is the Gamecocks’ 21st postseason game; they are 8-12 in bowl games and have won their last four. It’s not the most favorable matchup (I touched on four of the most likely opponents yesterday), but it will have to do.