It's been a great season, and it's been a frustrating season. Had Carolina found a way to beat Tennessee it could have been a special season. Had Carolina not held on against Vandy or Kentucky or not have Connor Shaw's miracle in Missouri, it could have been a disappointing season. It's a 10-2 season, and Carolina is headed to the Capital One Bowl.
The Gamecocks finished the regular season 9th in the BCS standing, and the BCS, collectively, takes 10 teams. It's disappointing to watch lesser ranked, undeserving teams go to BCS Bowls in the place of the Gamecocks. It's especially disappointing when Carolina has beaten some of those teams head to head. That disappointment us understandbale, but there seems to be some misunderstanding of why Carolina isn't in a BCS bowl. Here's why.
In short, the answer is politics. The BCS is the successor to the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance. In order to form those systems and the BCS all of the major conferences had to agree to play and, in some cases, sever historical ties to bowls. The process took years, and the negotiations were long. One of the concessions made in the course of negotiations was the rule that no more than two teams from one conference could be invited to the BCS bowls.
Once those two teams were taken, Auburn and Alabama this year, the other members of the conference are ineligible for selection. So, its unfortunate the BCS chose those two instead of USC. Well, maybe, but both of those teams had to be taken.
The top two teams in the BCS have to play in the championship game. That's the whole point of the system, and Auburn was #2. Another rule of the BCS is that any team that finishes in the Top 4 of the BCS has to go to a BCS bowl. Alabama finished #3, so they were mandatory. Very quickly there was no room in the Inn for USC.
This is, of course, unfair. But it's not just unfair to South Carolina. It's unfair to Missouri who is ahead of Carolina in the standings, and it's been unfair to other good teams from other good conferences. It's the result of the negotiations that brought the system into being, and this will be the last year of it.*
*Sorta. In the coming years there will be more unfairness in the same way. Look for teams to be lept by undeserving teams because the undeserving teams won some second rate conference. It is built into the rules: whether a team is a conference champion is an explicit consideration.