The South Carolina Gamecocks will have their hands full on Saturday night when the face the sixth-ranked Clemson Tigers in Columbia. However, the Gamecocks will also be doing a bit of scoreboard watching during the game.
In a strange twist, South Carolina may actually be more concerned about what happens in Columbia, Missouri than what happens in Columbia, South Carolina. In Missouri, the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division-leading Missouri Tigers will be hosting the Texas A&M Aggies. The SEC East race is totally dependent on that game. If Missouri wins, they claim the title and play in next week’s SEC Championship Game. However, if Missouri loses, they fall into a tie with South Carolina, and the Gamecocks will represent the East in the SEC Championship Game, due to their head-to-head win at Missouri earlier this season.
It is a strange setup for Steve Spurrier and his team. While they obviously want to win every game, especially against an intrastate rival like Clemson, the result in Missouri actually has a greater impact on where the Gamecocks go from here. There is only an outside chance that South Carolina could jump into a BCS game, barring a wave of major upsets or a Gamecock victory in the SEC title game, so Spurrier and his squad are simply waiting to find out whether they are heading to Atlanta or not.
The season has not gone the way many expected it would for South Carolina. A Top 10 team in the preseason, the Gamecocks have lost only to the Georgia Bulldogs in week two and to the Tennessee Volunteers in October. If South Carolina had taken care of business against an inferior Tennessee team, all kinds of options, including the BCS, would be open on Saturday. And, the game against Clemson would mean much more, because the SEC East title would have been wrapped up and this game could have been a virtual play-in game for the BCS.
Now, it will be interesting to see how focused South Carolina is on the opponent at hand (Clemson) instead of the opponent it really needs to lose (Missouri).
Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.