Originally created 11/27/01

Bowl picture unclear for Dogs, Gamecocks

The bowl picture for Georgia and South Carolina won't be clear until Dec. 9, but it became a bit less muddled Monday.

The Citrus Bowl selected Michigan as the Big Ten representative for its New Year's Day game in Orlando, Fla., and the Outback Bowl followed by filling its Big Ten slot with Ohio State.

The No. 17 Wolverines (8-3) will face a team from the Southeastern Conference, possibly No. 15 South Carolina (8-3), and Georgia could be Ohio State's SEC opponent the same day in Tampa, Fla.

The No. 16 Bulldogs (7-3) need a win Saturday against winless Houston to remain in the Outback picture. That would improve their record to 8-3 and create an attractive matchup with the No. 23 Buckeyes (7-4), who are coming off last week's 26-20 upset at Michigan.

Everything hinges on developments Saturday, when Florida will play host to Tennessee and Louisiana State will play host to Auburn, and in the SEC Championship game Dec. 8.

If the Florida-Tennessee loser is selected for the Bowl Championship Series, the Gamecocks' and Bulldogs' chances at the Citrus and Outback, respectively, would improve considerably.

If Tennessee isn't a BCS team, the Citrus would likely be forced to choose between the Volunteers (9-1) and Gamecocks. Chuck Rohe, executive director of the Citrus Bowl, said Monday that South Carolina's fan following would play a significant role in the selection process.

"South Carolina is very well regarded in our selection committee," Rohe said. "We all know how South Carolina is going to travel. We know they are going to bring more fans than any other team."

The Gamecocks' Citrus chances would be further bolstered if the SEC's East representative - Florida or Tennessee - wins the SEC Championship in Atlanta on Dec. 8.

That would leave Auburn or LSU, which will square off Saturday with the SEC West title at stake, with four losses. With three losses apiece, South Carolina and Georgia likely would be more attractive to the Citrus and Outback.

If Tennessee lands in the Citrus, the Gamecocks could return to the Outback for a rematch with Ohio State. Last season, South Carolina upset the Buckeyes 24-7 to finish 8-4.

Gamecock fans bought more than 30,000 tickets to the game, which was played before a sellout crowd of 65,000 at Raymond James Stadium. Mike Schulze, the Outback's director of communications, said Monday that the bowl wouldn't be averse to the same matchup this season. But he added that other possibilities, including Georgia-Ohio State, are equally attractive.

"South Carolina was a great team for us in a lot of ways, and we'd be happy with them again," Schulze said. "But we've got some really good options in the SEC, and Georgia is one of them."

There's also a chance Georgia will play Michigan in the Citrus, but South Carolina's 14-9 win over the Bulldogs on Sept. 9 might make the bowl reluctant to pass up the Gamecocks.

Still, Rohe said, anything is possible.

"We're going to look at all eight-win teams in the conference, and that includes Georgia" if the Bulldogs win Saturday, he said.

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larrywill7@yahoo.com.


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