South Carolina’s bid to break the school record for victories in a season will come on January 2, 2012 at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Florida against the 20th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Ten.
It’s the biggest bowl game in South Carolina history – and the first time the Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 SEC) have ever represented the Southeastern Conference in its top non-BCS game. Also, with USC ranked No. 9 in the Bowl Championship Series standings and the USA Today/ Coaches’ poll (and No. 10 in the Associated Press poll), a win would guarantee the Gamecocks their first Top Ten finish in school history.
“We certainly accept” head coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday night of the bowl invitation. “We’re excited to be going to this bowl.”
The game – which is played each year at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida – will kickoff at 1:00 p.m. EST. The stadium seats just over 70,000, with ticket prices ranging from $52-$227.
The Capital One Bowl – which pays out a non-BCS record of $4.6 million per team – has been extremely competitive since going to an SEC-Big Ten format in 1993. The Southeastern Conference has posted a 10-9 record during that stretch – but the Big Ten has won five of the last seven games. Most of those contests have been extremely close – although Alabama’s 49-7 drubbing of Michigan State last year was obviously an exception.
Two years ago, the Capital One Bowl gained a bit of infamy when Penn State narrowly defeated LSU 19-17 in a contest that was marred by one of the worst playing surfaces in modern college football history.
After hosting eight state championship high school games in mid-December of 2009, Citrus Bowl officials spent $36,000 to re-sod the field prior it to playing host to the Champs Sports Bowl on December 29, 2009.
Unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate, and by the time the stadium hosted the Tigers and Nittany Lions three days later the field was literally falling apart.
“That was by far the worst field conditions I’ve ever seen in my life,” LSU receiver Brandon LaFell told reporters after the game. “For them to say this is the best bowl outside the BCS, I would expect to play on the best field outside the BCS.”
After the 2010 game, city officials spent $10 million to install a new “Turf Grass” field, which is the surface the Gamecocks and Cornhuskers will play on.
While this is the Gamecocks first trip to the Capital One Bowl, USC did play in one of its previous iterations. From 1947-1982 the game was known as the Tangerine Bowl – and in 1975 Jim Carlen’s University of South Carolina squad was defeated 20-7 in that game by Miami of Ohio.
From 1983-2002 the game was referred to as one or another corporate-sponsored variations of the Citrus Bowl, although in 2003 Capital One decided to drop the fruit theme for good.
That’s too bad, because current USC head coach Steve Spurrier had a field day with this bowl during his heyday at the University of Florida.
“You can’t spell Citrus without UT,” Spurrier once said, referring to a four-year stretch during which the Tennessee Volunteers wound up playing in the Citrus Bowl three times following losses to Florida.
Guess you can’t spell Citrus without U-S-C, either …
South Carolina is 4-12 in bowl games – and 1-4 under Spurrier. The Gamecocks defeated Houston in the 2006 Liberty Bowl, but have lost the Independence (2005), Outback (2009), Papajohns.com (2010) and Chick-Fil-A (2010) bowls under the “Head Ball Coach.”
Spurrier was 1-1 in Citrus Bowl appearances with Florida – beating Penn State 21-7 in 1998 but losing to Michigan State 37-34 in 2000. During his career, Spurrier is 7-10 in bowl games.
Against Nebraska, the Gamecocks are winless in three tries – losing on the road in Lincoln in 1964 and 1987 and at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1986.
Nebraska entered the 1986 game ranked No. 3 in the nation but got all they could handle from the the unranked Gamecocks, escaping with a 27-24 victory.
The Cornhuskers (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) are led by sophomore quarterback Taylor Martinez. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound signal-caller has thrown for 1,973 yards on the year with 12 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Extremely elusive, he has also rushed for 839 yards and seven touchdowns. Martinez’s numbers are comparable to his standout freshman campaign – when he threw for 1,631 yards and rushed for 965 more during Nebraska’s final season in the Big XII.
Nebraska has won five national championships – and is the last team to win back-to-back titles (a feat it accomplished in 1994 and 1995 under legendary coach Tom Osborne). In fact, Osborne’s Cornhuskers defeated Spurrier’s Gators 62-24 in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl to claim their second consecutive crown.
Pics: Capital One Bowl