Sara Yang/The Daily Gamecock

Bowl projections: Two clear favorites for Gamecocks

The Gamecocks have one more regular season game, but they also have a 6-5 record, making them bowl eligible for the third year in a row. 

With bowl game selection coming on Sunday, there are two possible options for the Gamecocks that are both within reasonable driving distance for fans. 

One of the options is the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Florida, on Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. Jacksonville just over four hours away from Columbia.

The Daily Gamecock’s sports section posted a poll on Twitter this week asking followers which bowl destination they would prefer. Out of those who responded, 48 percent said that they would like to see the Gamecocks play in the Gator Bowl this year. 

Rick Catlett, TaxSlayer Gator Bowl president, told The State this week that the Gamecocks have a chance to receive a bid to the Jacksonville bowl game, crediting both South Carolina administration and fans. 

“We have wanted to have South Carolina now for a couple years. Their fan base is tremendous,” Catlett said to The State. "Ray Tanner is an unbelievable guy to deal with. Will Muschamp is a great coach. I have liked him for a while now, the way he coaches, the kind of kids he recruits. We would love to have them in our bowl game."  

After the College Football Playoff teams are determined, the other New Year’s Six bowl games are placed. Barring any upsets, the SEC will have Alabama in the College Football Playoff, with Georgia, LSU and Florida projected to be placed in New Year’s Six games. 

"With the SEC playing four up, that kind of shuffles everything it looked like we were going to do," Catlett said to The State. 

Afterwards, the Citrus Bowl will select the highest ranked SEC team that is available, which is currently the Kentucky Wildcats.  

After Kentucky, the remaining bowl eligible teams from the SEC are South Carolina, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. 

Once the Citrus Bowl makes its selection, the Gator Bowl, Music City Bowl, Belk Bowl, Outback Bowl, Texas Bowl and Liberty Bowl are evenly positioned, and the remaining teams are placed into these games with input from the SEC office, with factors such as geography coming into play.  

With geography in play, the other most likely option would be for South Carolina to play in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 29 at noon. 

Brad Crawford of 247Sports tweeted on Tuesday that because Texas A&M defeated LSU, bowl placement for SEC teams is affected and could push the Gamecocks to Charlotte rather than Jacksonville. 

The Belk Bowl would be convenient for South Carolina fans, who would arrive in mass numbers to Charlotte, given its proximity to Columbia. 

However, the Gamecocks also open the 2019 season at Bank of America Stadium, adding another factor to the bowl selection process. 

In the aforementioned Twitter poll, 39 percent of Twitter followers preferred that South Carolina play in the Belk Bowl, which was in second place behind the Gator Bowl. 

Regardless of which bowl game the Gamecocks play in, South Carolina has history in both Jacksonville and Charlotte. South Carolina has played in four Gator Bowls, and have lost in all four appearances. Their last Gator Bowl appearance was a 30-13 loss to LSU in 1987. 

South Carolina has never played in the Belk Bowl, but is no stranger to playing in Charlotte. The Gamecocks opened the 2011, 2015 and 2017 seasons in Charlotte playing East Carolina, North Carolina and NC State, respectively. They are slated to open the 2019 season at Bank of America Stadium against North Carolina. 

South Carolina will learn their bowl fate on Sunday afternoon after the College Football Playoff and New Year’s Six matchups are announced. 

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