South Carolina football fans are holding out hope for a Gamecock postseason. Traditional bowl eligibility (6 wins) would require USC to knock off rivals Kentucky and Clemson in the regular season’s final two weeks.
The good news for the Gamecocks is that both the matchup with the Wildcats and with the Tigers will be at Williams-Brice Stadium. Even better news for South Carolina football is that both games will be under the lights with kickoff time set for 7:30 the next two Saturdays.
With the growing number of bowl games, there likely will be several 5-7 teams that get invited to participate in the postseason despite not reaching the 6-win threshold. Certain 5-7 teams will be eligible (pending team GPA and several other factors) to receive bowl invitations, and Carolina could be one of them.
Whether it is because he sees the Gamecocks winning out or he believes Shane Beamer and company will be a 5-7 invitee, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has projected South Carolina football in his postseason field.
In fact, Palm is projecting the Gamecocks to play in a familiar bowl game against an old friend.
According to projections released this week, Palm has South Carolina matching up with the Georgia State Panthers in the Birmingham Bowl.
Most USC fans will have their ears perk up a bit when they read the name Georgia State. This isn’t just because Carolina played the Atlanta-based Panthers last year to open the season. No, the fans in Columbia know Georgia State because the program is led by head coach Shawn Elliott. Elliott has been the headman of the Panthers since 2017 but spent the previous seven seasons on the Gamecock coaching staff, including a stint as the interim head coach after the resignation of the legendary Steve Spurrier.
It was no secret that Elliott wanted the USC gig when Will Muschamp was hired after 2015, and that interest was probably there again when Shane Beamer got the job at the end of 2020.
While Elliott loves the Gamecock program, there is not much in the world that he would love more than beating the program that didn’t hire him as head coach after a successful stretch as an assistant.
The Birmingham Bowl is a familiar postseason destination for South Carolina football, as well. The Gamecocks played in the game after the 2016 season and after the 2009 campaign when the game was called the PapaJohns.com Bowl. USC lost both contests.
The 2009 loss to UConn is most memorable for the stadium being cold and running out of pizza (yes, the PapaJohns.com Bowl ran out of Papa John’s pizza).
In the 2016 game, South Carolina football fell to South Florida in overtime, but the Gamecocks rewrote some Birmingham Bowl history.
Quarterback Jake Bentley (who was a freshman at the time) put up the 2nd-most completions and passing yards ever in Birmingham when he connected with Gamecock pass catchers for 32 completions and 390 yards. His top target Deebo Samuel set receiving records for the bowl game with 14 grabs and 190 yards. Those 14 catches are still tied for the most receptions in a game in South Carolina football history.
Whether it is as a 6-6 team or a 5-7 team, the Gamecocks have to win at least one more game to even think about a bowl. The next step in that pursuit will be this Saturday when the Kentucky Wildcats come to Columbia for a 7:30 showdown that will air on the SECNetwork and ESPN app.