TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz spoke for his Hawkeyes. However, he just as well could have included Steve Spurrier's South Carolina Gamecocks.
Being anywhere for a bowl game is nice, especially after you've spent the previous year at home.
Playing on New Year's Day in the Outback Bowl just makes it a little more gratifying.
"A year at home makes you appreciate things more," said Ferentz, who led Iowa (8-4) to six consecutive postseason appearances from 2001 to 2006 before going 6-6 and not receiving an invitation in 2007.
South Carolina (7-5) also went 6-6, joining the Hawkeyes and five others as the only FBS bowl-eligible teams to not get a berth.
"It's sort of unusual, but that's the way it worked out. We qualified but didn't get in. One thing we did this year is when we got our sixth win ... we didn't take it for granted," Spurrier said.
"When we got our seventh, we said: `That's good,' because we learned last year six wasn't quite good enough. We appreciated our victories a little bit more, and maybe last year taught us that."
Thursday's game at Raymond James Stadium is a chance to set the tone for the offseason. South Carolina is coming off losses to Florida and Clemson by a combined score of 87-20. Iowa has won five of six following a three-game losing streak that dropped them to 3-3.
I've made this comment pretty much all through the season: We played hard enough to win games all year. Our effort level was pretty good, pretty consistent, but we didn't play well enough," Ferentz said.
"It's usually as simple as that. ... The guys realized that we had a chance to have a good football team if they stuck with it, and that's what they did."
In hopes of sparking South Carolina's offense, Spurrier is handing the reins to Stephen Garcia in what amounts to a homecoming for the redshirt freshman quarterback, who's trying to jumpstart his career.
Garcia. who replaces Chris Smelley, was the centerpiece of South Carolina's recruiting class two years ago.
Off-the-field issues, including a pair of arrests in his first month on campus, threatened to undermine his career before it even got started.
"I think Stephen has matured a lot. I really do. He needs to continue as he goes," Spurrier said, explaining the decision to turn to Garcia after Smelley started nine games this season.
"Hopefully some day he'll make one those (Tim) Tebow statements where he says no quarterback in the nation will work harder than I will, and no quarterback will try to get his team ready to play harder than I will."
The coach said another factor is the 20-year-old also is showing signs of beginning to truly understand what the Gamecocks are trying to accomplish in the passing game and what he, as a quarterback, needs to do to make it work.
Spurrier called his quarterbacks "pretty even talent-wise." But with the offense struggling, he feels it's time to see what Garcia -- 1-1 as a starter -- can do.
"I'm going to try and block out the distractions, but it's going to be tough. My adrenalin will probably be throbbing," Garcia said, adding that it hasn't always been easy being coached by the demanding Spurrier.
"He called me up and said he's going to try and be more encouraging. I'm definitely looking forward to that. It's tough dealing with it sometimes, but I've just got to take it and learn from it. He's just such a competitor. He wants everybody to be the best he can be. Some people take it positive and others don't. It depends on who he's talking to."
Spurrier has liked what he's seen in practice, and teammates say Garcia has appeared more comfortable since the team arrived in Tampa, where the Gamecocks worked out at the quarterback's high school.
"He actually does seem to appear he knows a lot more about what we're trying to do. He seems to look like he's capable. When the live action starts, that's when we'll find out," Spurrier said.
"When the real game starts, that's what separates the practice players from the gamers. Let's hope Steven is going to be a gamer. ... The game will tell everything."
Teammates think Garcia, who threw for 8,081 yards and 83 touchdowns at Tampa Jefferson, is ready for the opportunity.
"He's been a leader even when he was not playing," receiver Kenny McKinley said. "He's positive on the sidelines. ... He's got good confidence in himself, which you need in a quarterback."
Center Garrett Anderson agreed.
"He's very comfortable. You can definitely tell he is back in his hometown," Anderson said. "I think he's got a little bit of a swagger."
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every College Football game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.
Neither team has more than eight wins or a national ranking, but there should be some intrigue in Tampa with Shonn Greene, a hot Iowa squad and the Head Ball Coach. Iowa won five of its final six games, including an upset of Penn State, to reach its fifth January bowl game since 2002. South Carolina ranks 11th nationally in total defense, one spot ahead of Iowa. -- Adam Rittenberg