Gator Bowl gets its matchup: Notre Dame and South Carolina headed to Jacksonville

Shane Beamer of South Carolina and Notre Dame's Marcus Freeman. (The Associated Press, Associated Press)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl has its matchup and it’s a great one.

The annual game in Jacksonville will pit South Carolina against Notre Dame in the game on Dec. 30 at TIAA Bank Field. Bowl bids had trickled out across the afternoon Sunday but the SEC’s final call came just after 4 p.m.

The Fighting Irish are 8-4 and the Gamecocks, who had two massive wins down the stretch over Tennessee and Clemson, are also 8-4. The game is a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.

After what’s felt like years of soft matchups and poor attendance, this year’s game feels like a special one.

The Gamecocks should travel well and are a solid SEC pick. Jackson High School linebacker Grayson Howard is also a commit to the Gamecocks and intends to sign early with the program, so there’s a nifty local tie.

And Notre Dame is Notre Dame, one of the most recognizable brands in all of college football. After an 0-2 start under first-year coach Marcus Freeman, the Irish straightened things out, including a 35-14 rout of then-No. 5 Clemson.

Last year’s game was supposed to match Wake Forest and Texas A&M but the Aggies pulled out citing injuries and illness. Rutgers was a last-minute replacement and got walloped 38-10, a game that drew just over 29,000 fans.

This marks Notre Dame’s fourth appearance in the game and its first since 2003, a 28-6 loss to NC State. The Gamecocks will be making their fifth appearance in the Gator Bowl and first since a 30-13 loss to LSU in 1987. South Carolina played in the Gator three times in the 1980s.

The Gator is bound to match an SEC team against an ACC team or Notre Dame. Conferences assign teams to games so matchups aren’t normally decided by a team’s finish in the conference.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.