First look: Gator Bowl storylines, betting odds for South Carolina vs. Notre Dame

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

South Carolina officially learned its postseason destination on Sunday — a trip to Jacksonville for the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl.

The Gamecocks will take on Notre Dame on Dec. 30 on ESPN. It’s the sixth-straight bowl appearance for the Fighting Irish.

Notre Dame finished at No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, while South Carolina ended at No. 19.

The teams have not played each other since 1984, when USC won 36-32.

SOUTH CAROLINA VS. NOTRE DAME GAME INFO

  • Who: No. 19 South Carolina (8-4) vs. No. 21 Notre Dame (8-4)

  • Where: TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.

  • When: Friday, Dec. 30 at 3:30 p.m.

  • TV: ESPN

  • Stream: via ESPN app/ESPN.com

USC VS NOTRE DAME BETTING LINE

Notre Dame is an early 4.5-point favorite over South Carolina, according to Action Network.

RATTLER RETURNS FOR BOWL GAME

Before South Carolina was placed in the Gator Bowl, it was reported by On3 that quarterback Spencer Rattler will play in the Gamecocks’ bowl game.

Rattler joined South Carolina through the transfer portal last December. He caught fire in the last two weeks with his performances against Tennessee and Clemson, capping on an impressive November for him.

Over his last four games, he’s thrown for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Rattler started every game this season for South Carolina, giving the team stability it didn’t have at that position last year. The 2021 squad started four different quarterbacks.

Should Rattler change his mind and opt to not play, USC would turn to one of its other quarterbacks. The team is looking to preserve Luke Doty’s redshirt status. USC could also look to senior receiver Dakereon Joyner, who was the MVP of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl as a quarterback last year. Or current third-stringer and freshman Tanner Bailey could be an option.

BEAMER BOWLING ONCE AGAIN

The tide of South Carolina’s football program is shifting with a bowl appearance in Shane Beamer’s second year at the helm.

Beamer is now 15-10 as a head coach, with three wins against ranked teams this season.

The Gamecocks have earned a few milestones along the way, such as beating Texas A&M for the first time, snapping a seven-game losing streak to Clemson and reaching the Top 25 for the first time in four years.

A win against Notre Dame would make Beamer the first coach in school history to win bowl games in his first two seasons as the head coach.

For the Fighting Irish, head coach Marcus Freeman is in his first full season as head coach. He led the team in the Fiesta Bowl last year after Brian Kelly departed for LSU.

DREW PYNE IN THE TRANSFER PORTAL

Notre Dame quarterback Drew Pyne announced his plans to enter the transfer portal and forgo the team’s bowl game.

Pyne threw for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns in 11 games for the Fighting Irish. He completed 64.6% of his passes.

Freeman has not announced a starter for the Gator Bowl. Sophomore Tyler Buchner is the only other quarterback who has thrown a pass for the team this season.

PLAYOFF PICTURE DISRUPTION

Both the Gamecocks and the Fighting Irish began the season 1-2 with losses to current College Football Playoff teams. USC lost to Georgia, with Notre Dame falling to Ohio State. Both went on to shake up the playoff standings later in the year.

South Carolina defeated Tennessee and Clemson in back-to-back weeks to compromise their playoff efforts. Notre Dame accounts for the Tigers’ only other loss, defeating them at home 35-14.

The two Gator Bowl teams are battle-tested, and they’ve even found success against some of the top teams in the nation.

Notre Dame had a streak of games where it scored at least 35 points before its loss to Southern Cal in the season finale. South Carolina posted 63 points on then-No. 5 Tennessee, the most any unranked team has ever scored against a top five opponent in The Associated Press poll era.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Spencer Rattler, QB, South Carolina: Rattler went on a tear for USC in November, helping vault the team to an eight-win season and Gator Bowl appearance. He completed 66.6% of his passes during the season and threw 11 of his 16 touchdown passes in the last four games. This will be Rattler’s first bowl game since he played in the 2020 Cotton Bowl with Oklahoma.

Antwane Wells, WR, South Carolina: Wells finished second in the SEC with 898 receiving yards, adding six touchdowns to his totals. He transferred in from James Madison before this season, and has been the Gamecocks’ best receiver throughout the year.

Audric Estimé, RB, Notre Dame: The leading rusher for the Fighting Irish, Estimé ended the year with 967 yards of offense and 12 total touchdowns. He rushed for 100 yards or more three times in the regular season. Opportunities for Estimé should open up with the quarterback situation not yet resolved.

Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame: Mayer was Notre Dame’s leading receiver with 67 catches, 809 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s had two games this season with more than one receiving touchdown, and eight games with five or more receptions.