BOWL PROJECTIONS: Clemson aims for Sugar Bowl; Gamecocks suffer from Alabama upset

  • Posted: Monday, November 12, 2012 12:29 p.m., Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 1:08 p.m.
Left: Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins pulls in a reception for a touchdown while being covered by Ball state's Jason Pinkston in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 at Memorial Stadium in Clemson S.C. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro) Right: South Carolina's Bruce Ellington celebrates his touchdown catch against Arkansas during second-quarter action in Columbia, S.C. on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. (Photo by Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)

It’s not even Thanksgiving. There is an awful lot of important regular-season and conference championship football left.

But Clemson, if it defeats N.C. State on Saturday and South Carolina on Nov. 24, probably is headed for the Sugar Bowl.

South Carolina, thanks to Johnny Football, evidently has no BCS chance, win or lose in Death Valley.

“The Sugar Bowl does things differently,” a Chick-Fil-A Bowl official said, alluding to the odd selection of Virginia Tech last season after a lopsided ACC Championship Game loss to Clemson. “But all indications are they like an 11-win (Clemson). Of course, so do we.”

Clemson is No. 11 in the current BCS standings, but for BCS selection purposes the Tigers are in the seventh spot. Only two SEC teams can play in BCS games and the order goes No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 LSU, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 9 South Carolina.

Texas A&M did more than stun previously top-ranked Alabama on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa; marketable Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel and Co. vaulted ahead of South Carolina in the BCS standings and unofficial eye-test rating for BCS and Capital One Bowl consideration.

The SEC bowl selection order goes: 1. BCS Championship Game (if applies), 2. Sugar, 3. Capital One, 4. Outback and Cotton, 6. Chick-Fil-A, 7. Gator.

South Carolina’s ticket to the SEC West-friendly Cotton Bowl would have to involve either LSU or Texas A&M landing a BCS at-large spot with the other making the Capital One Bowl. Otherwise, it looks like Outback, Chick-Fil-A or Gator for the Gamecocks, assuming LSU and Texas A&M win out.

Of course, a lot can and will happen between now and the BCS Selection Show.

No. 1 Kansas State still must play No. 15 Texas, No. 2 Oregon has to face No. 13 Stanford and No. 16 Oregon State and No. 3 Notre Dame coming off a shaky victory over wobbly Boston College plays No. 18 Southern Cal.

The “experts” have weighed in with post-Alabama loss bowl projections.

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach – BCS title game: Kansas State-Oregon; Sugar Bowl: Clemson-Georgia; Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina-N.C. State.

ESPN.com’s Brad Edwards – BCS title game: Kansas State-Oregon; Sugar Bowl: Clemson-Georgia; Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina-Georgia Tech.

Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel – BCS title game: Kansas State-Oregon; Sugar Bowl: Clemson-Alabama; Chick-Fil-A Bowl: South Carolina-N.C. State.

CBSsports.com – BCS title game: Kansas State-Oregon; Sugar Bowl: Clemson-Alabama; Outback Bowl: South Carolina-Wisconsin.

Clemson is a lock for the Chick-Fil-A Bowl if it stumbles against N.C. State and/or South Carolina. Florida State clinches the ACC Atlantic Division

The nightmare scenario for an 11-1 Clemson team would include some combination of Stanford or Oregon State jumping ahead in the BCS rankings with a win over Oregon, Texas moving up with an upset of Kansas State and Southern Cal finishing with wins over Notre Dame and UCLA. In that case, you might see the traditionally unpredictable Sugar Bowl committee loving, say, an Alabama-Southern Cal game.

Or, Florida State solidifies its resume by pounding Florida in the regular-season finale. But loses the ACC Championship Game to an inferior Coastal Division team. The Seminoles still might be more attractive to the Sugar than Clemson.

South Carolina’s 10-2 BCS dream might come true with the following cooperation:

Alabama gets into the BCS Championship Game, requiring two of the top three teams to lose a regular season game.

Georgia is pummeled in the SEC Championship Game.

Florida loses big at Florida State.

Texas A&M loses at home to Missouri.

LSU either loses a game or a political battle with the Sugar Bowl committee, which opts for the Gamecocks.

Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.

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