South Carolina’s football team will play in the Birmingham Bowl, it learned Sunday, but the specifics of the postseason aren’t the most important thing for the Gamecocks, their coach said.
“We were picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference. You guys did a really good job with that. We didn’t,” Will Muschamp said. “We’re going bowling, so that’s exciting. As a program, we are not where we want to be. No one is satisfied with 6-6, I can assure you that, but thank goodness we’re not where we used to be.”
South Carolina finished 3-9 last year, missing a bowl game for the first time after a school-record seven consecutive trips. This year’s team won four of its final six regular-season games to achieve bowl eligibility.
The Birmingham Bowl will be played on Dec. 29 at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. The Gamecocks will play a 10-2 South Florida team that finished second in the Eastern Division of the American Athletic Conference this year.
The Bulls are seventh in the nation in scoring offense with 43.6 points per game. They are led by junior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who averages 118.8 yards per game on the ground and 212.2 yards per game through the air.
“We would have a hard time tackling him in a phone booth,” said Muschamp, who recruited Flowers out of Miami. “He’s really good. He’s a slippery guy.”
This is South Carolina’s third appearance in Birmingham for a bowl game. Their most recent trip was Jan. 2, 2010, when Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks lost 20-7 in Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl. South Carolina is 8-12 all-time in bowl games.
“We are excited to be back in a bowl game after missing out last year,” athletics director Ray Tanner said. “It’s a testament to Coach Muschamp, his staff and the players for getting us back into the postseason. I’m especially happy for the seniors, who struck together through the coaching transition and showed tremendous leadership throughout the season.”
The Gamecocks will begin bowl practice on Dec. 15, said Muschamp, who is 1-1 in his career in bowl games.
“At the end of the day, the fun is in winning and that’s what you need to be able to focus in on and to be able to have a mature team handle a little time off and coming back,” Muschamp said. “There is a time to have fun as far as bowl games are concerned and there’s a time to focus. That’s going to be my emphasis with them.”
Who: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 29
Where: Birmingham, Ala.