5th Quarter Consensus: Badgers will overcome SEC foe in Capital One Bowl

Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

Will Wisconsin bounce back from an uncharacteristic home loss to Penn State to pick up its first bowl victory since 2009? Our staff thinks so.

The Predictions

Phil Mitten (11-1, +205): South Carolina 28, Wisconsin 24

Jake Harris (11-1, +225): South Carolina 27, Wisconsin 23

Mike Fiammetta (10-2, +215): Wisconsin 34, South Carolina 27

Andy Johnson (10-2, +226): Wisconsin 30, South Carolina 28

Andrew Rosin (10-2, +227): Wisconsin 20, South Carolina 17

Jake Kocorowski (10-2, +243): Wisconsin 27, South Carolina 24

Louis Bien (10-2, +259): South Carolina 30, Wisconsin 27

The Reasoning

Wisconsin desperately needs a victory in Orlando, having lost five of its last six bowl games. In addition to putting former head coach Bret Bielema's 2-4 bowl record in the rearview mirror, a win over South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl would restore the feelings of optimism that surrounded the UW program for most of the 2013 season, but which quickly evaporated after a stunning loss to Penn State on Senior Day in Madison.

Don't look now, but should the Badgers fall to the Gamecocks Wednesday at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, they would need to beat LSU in enemy territory in August to avoid falling to 9-5 overall under head coach Gary Andersen - a good record, but hardly impressive by Wisconsin's standards.

Our staff is split on the outcome of what figures to be a close game, but UW has a good chance of knocking off South Carolina on New Year's Day because of its running game and its defense. The Gamecocks' 4-2-5 scheme allows 142.3 rushing yards per game and 4.05 yards per carry. In three games this season against defenses who stop the run more effectively than South Carolina, the Badgers rushed for a total of 553 yards.

The Gamecocks boast a talented and experienced defensive line, led by junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6, 274-pound lineman is projected as a top-five pick in the 2014 NFL Draft but has appeared less than motivated at times this season. He enters this game with just three sacks, though he did miss two games. Clowney has been ticketed twice for speeding since the end of the regular season but appears on track to start his final collegiate game.

Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles does not garner as many headlines as Clowney, but he is more productive. Quarles has recorded at least one sack in seven games this season, including 2.5 sacks against Clemson, the Gamecocks' archrival.

The linebacking corps is led by freshman Skai Moore, while junior Sharrod Golightly anchors a secondary that has allowed just 202.8 passing yards per game in 2013.

Wisconsin offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig will need to commit to James White, Melvin Gordon and the Badger running game to avoid putting sophomore quarterback Joel Stave in unfavorable passing situations against South Carolina. Stave struggled mightily in the regular season finale against Penn State, throwing three interceptions and completing just 54.7 percent of his 53 pass attempts.

Meanwhile, sophomore left tackle Tyler Marz and the rest of the UW offensive line will have its hands full containing Clowney, Quarles and the Gamecocks' athletic defensive front.

Wisconsin's defense, which ranks sixth in the nation, is looking to rebound from a disappointing performance against the Nittany Lions in which freshman quarterback Christian Hackenburg threw all over the Badgers' secondary.

Senior quarterback Connor Shaw makes South Carolina's offense go. Shaw has completed 61 percent of his passes this season, his lowest completion percentage in four years with the Gamecocks, but his 21-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2013 is stellar. Shaw will not hesitate to take off running when the pocket collapses; he ran 22 times for 94 yards against Clemson in SC's regular season finale.

South Carolina averages 205.3 yards per game on the ground, mostly thanks to sophomore running back Mike Davis. The tailback from Georgia has rushed for 1,134 yards this season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He has scored 11 touchdowns in 2013 and will look to add to that total against a Wisconsin defense that has surrendered just seven touchdowns on the ground all year.

Wisconsin's secondary catches a break, as South Carolina's second-leading receiver, junior Damiere Byrd, will not play Wednesday. Byrd has caught 33 balls for 575 yards and four touchdowns this season. Junior Bruce Ellington, thus, will receive the bulk of the Badgers' attention. He has 43 receptions for 635 yards and six touchdowns.

Freshman kicker Elliott Fry has made 15 of his 18 field goal attempts this season for the Gamecocks, including 6 of his 8 attempts from beyond 40 yards. South Carolina ranks 80th in the nation in kickoff returns and 111th in averaging just 3.77 yards per punt return. That should be an advantage for the Badgers' generally solid coverage units as they try and win the field position battle.

A win over a top-1o opponent from the nation's best conference could propel Wisconsin into an exciting offseason that could feature the introduction of a promising recruiting class and perhaps even a quarterback competition. It would also give the Badgers' current crop of seniors - among them White, wide receiver Jared Abbrederis, nose tackle Beau Allen, linebacker Chris Borland and safety Dezmen Southward - a proper sendoff after a successful run in Madison. We expect them to take advantage of their opportunity in Orlando.

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