South Carolina returns to the Georgia Dome for the second time in less than a month after losing to Auburn in the SEC championship game and will face Florida State on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Here’s a quick preview of the Chick-fil-A Bowl:
WHO TO WATCH: The Gamecocks have an impressive array of young talent, but freshman running back Marcus Lattimore proved to be one of those difference-makers that comes around only so often. He has 1,198 rushing yards to lead all SEC running backs and also has 19 touchdowns, one away from tying the SEC single-season record for a freshman. Lattimore has been at his best on the biggest stages, too, and is one of those guys who can carry the ball as many times as you want to give it to him. The Gamecocks were looking for somebody to come in and jump-start their running game this season, and Lattimore was just exactly what they ordered.
WHAT TO WATCH: First-year offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was able to bring some stability to a South Carolina offensive line this season that had taken its lumps the past two years. The Gamecocks were far from dominant up front, but they battled and were much improved. They face a steep challenge against a Florida State defense that leads the country with 46 sacks. Moreover, it looks like the Gamecocks will be without their top lineman. Elliott said he doesn’t expect senior left guard Garrett Chisolm to be able to play after re-injuring his knee in practice. Senior Terrence Campbell will likely start in Chisolm’s place.
WHY WATCH: Bowl games and the Gamecocks haven’t been a good mix. They’re just 4-11 all-time in the postseason, and that includes a couple of miserable performances in their past two bowl outings – a 20-7 loss to Connecticut in the Papajohns.com Bowl last season and a 31-10 loss to Iowa two years ago in the Outback Bowl. South Carolina needs to play well to get that bowl monkey off its back, and the Gamecocks also don’t want to end an otherwise historic season with back-to-back losses.
PREDICTION: Florida State 28, South Carolina 21. The Gamecocks’ lousy bowl history is one thing, but the big thing working against them is losing their best offensive lineman for this game. The Seminoles will come after South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia more than ever, and with Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder back in the lineup, the Seminoles should be able to take advantage of a South Carolina secondary that has struggled in pass coverage this season.