Garnet And Black Attack is SB Nation's South Carolina blog, and the writers there do a fantastic job covering everything Gamecocks. In anticipation of the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day, I highly recommend perusing their blog for everything they've been churning out for the past few weeks.
John from GAB was nice enough to answer some of our questions regarding the Gamecocks' expectations for this game, how a Capital One Bowl appearance tastes to the fans and more. Our Andrew Rosin also answered some of theirs, and you can read that full Q&A on GAB Attack. Let's get bowling!
1. B5Q: What's the mood in Columbia entering this game? Is a Capital One Bowl berth solid, or were Gamecocks fans hoping for more?
GAB Attack: There's some very mild disappointment with the bowl destination for two reasons. The Gamecocks would have played in the SEC Championship Game had Texas A&M beaten Mizzou during the final week of the regular season. What's more, given that we played in Orlando two years ago, there is a contingent of fans who were hoping the Capital One would pass on us so we could play in our first Cotton Bowl.
However, the mood is generally very positive. Both of the two factors above were out of our control; our fans are happy we finished the season on a winning streak. Moreover, a ten-win regular season with a win over Clemson is excellent by our historical standards, and this is only the second time we've played as high as the Capital One Bowl. We also know Wisconsin is a quality opponent, and we're excited for the opportunity to notch one more quality win on the season.
2. B5Q: How familiar are South Carolina fans with Wisconsin by now? Do they expect the Gamecocks to win?
GAB Attack: I'd say the average South Carolina fan is aware that Wisconsin is a consistent contender in the Big Ten that tends to rely on a great running game. However, many of our fans probably didn't know much that's more specific about the Wisconsin program prior to learning that the Badgers would be this year's bowl opponent. That varies, though, depending on how much a given fan pays attention to college football nationally. In any event, we've been learning more over the past couple of weeks. As far as expectations, I'd say it depends on the fan. Some of the usual homers are very confident, but many of us realize that Wisconsin's running game will put pressure on some of our defensive question marks.
3. B5Q: What should Wisconsin's defense expect from South Carolina's offense?
GAB Attack: Variety. South Carolina has lots of weapons on offense and will show Wisconsin a lot of different looks. We generally operate with starting QB Connor Shaw in the shotgun, but you'll see one-back sets, two-back sets with a fullback, different formations from the receivers, tight ends lined up both with the offensive line or split out, etc. South Carolina occasionally uses the I-formation, but more so if our backup QB, Dylan Thompson, gets into the game. South Carolina has also increasingly over the past few games been using a wildcat package with WR Pharoh Cooper taking the snap.
Many college football fans still associate Steve Spurrier with his Fun-n-Gun offenses from his Florida days, but South Carolina's base offense actually revolves around a core set of read-option plays in which Shaw is just as much of a threat to run the ball as the tailbacks. However, Shaw has been more dangerous passing the ball this year than the past two, and I expect us to test Wisconsin's pass defense with the speed of our receivers, who have played well in recent weeks. Spurrier still wants to move the ball through the air and will do so if he feels he can. In any event, he'll test Wisconsin and will exploit what Wisconsin gives him. That's the luxury of having a very balanced offense.
4. B5Q: And what should the Badgers' offense expect?
GAB Attack: The question of the game, for me, is whether our young linebacking corps can handle such an amazingly prolific running game as what Wisconsin brings to the table. South Carolina fielded a completely revamped group of linebackers this season that included no one who had significant experience on the two-deep at either linebacker or spur. (Note that South Carolina runs a 4-2-5 defense with a hybrid linebacker-safety referred to as a spur instead of a third linebacker.) However, we did field a talented group at these positions that got better over the season. How much better, though, is the question in many Carolina fans' minds prior to taking on Wisconsin.
More generally, Carolina is very strong on the defensive line, both against the run and the pass. Carolina will try to generate a pass rush with its line, both because of the talent on the ends as well as because of the aforementioned inexperience at linebacker. Carolina is also strong at corner. If Wisconsin wants to test Carolina with its passing game, the Badgers should do so by targeting the linebackers and safeties.
5. B5Q: If you could cook up a game plan for South Carolina in this game, what would be the key elements?
GAB Attack: Offensively, Wisconsin make every effort to establish the run, as I've suggested. Depending on how the USC linebackers play, Wisconsin's tailbacks may have room to run when they make it past the first level. If Wisconsin gets pass-happy like it did against Penn. St., it's playing into the strength of South Carolina's defense, which is a disruptive pass rush and ball-hawking defensive backs.
South Carolina's offense is strong this year and will be hard to stop if it plays up to standard. However, the worst thing Wisconsin can do would be to allow Shaw, Mike Davis, and the backup tailbacks to ring up tons of yardage on the ground. Wisconsin should seek to stop the run first and foremost and force Shaw to pass. Shaw has proven capable of doing that this year, but it's the lesser of two evils for the Badgers.
6. B5Q: Are a lot of South Carolina fans heading to Orlando for this one?
GAB Attack: Yeah, we should have a pretty good crowd. South Carolina fans travel well unless we're REALLY disappointed about the season, which is far from the case this year. The only year I can remember us not having a good turnout was the 2008 Outback Bowl against Iowa, and that was because the season had gone sour in the last two games. We were playing poorly and knew we were in for a whipping in the bowl. This year, as said, there's plenty of excitement.
7. B5Q: Do you have a prediction?
GAB Attack: I expect a game with some impressive offensive production by both teams, but a game that may be relatively low-scoring because both teams like to run the ball. This should be a very close game, but I like Connor Shaw to play extremely well in his final game for Carolina and for our linebackers to continue to show improvement against Wisconsin's running game. I say the Gamecocks will win 24-21.
- Badgers in the NFL: Week 17
- Nigel Hayes named Big Ten Freshman of the Week
- Remembering Wisconsin's 1993 Rose Bowl run: The season that launched a Badgers love affair
- Wisconsin women's hockey: Former Badgers steal spotlight vs. Canada in St. Paul
- Wisconsin vs. Prairie View A&M recap: Badgers finish non-conference schedule undefeated after 80-43 win