It's official: No. 19 Wisconsin will face the No. 8 South Carolina Gamecocks in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day in Orlando, Fla. While there is still plenty of time to do your own research on the Gamecocks, we generous people at B5Q figured that we would join in on the holiday spirit and give you a little bit of a head start. Without further adieu, here's what you need to know about the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Any time a team from the SEC walks away from the regular season with 10 wins, it's safe to say it was the real deal. According to Jeff Sagarin's ratings, the 10-2 Gamecocks (6-2 SEC) had only the 30th-toughest schedule in the nation, but impressive wins against then-No. 5 Missouri and then-No. 6 Clemson are undeniable examples of a team that much be taken seriously.
In South Carolina's 27-24, double-overtime victory over Missouri in Columbia on Oct. 26th, Connor Shaw was sitting out with a knee injury -- until the third quarter. With the Gamecocks down 17 points, Steve Spurrier sent the senior quarterback into the game in relief of Dylan Thompson, who was 15-of-27 for 222 yards and one interception at the time.
Shaw threw for 201 yards, three touchdowns and completed 20-of-29 pass attempts in relief of Thompson and helped the team score on its final five possessions. In the fourth quarter alone, Shaw led the Gamecocks on scoring drives of 65, 69 and 63 yards. And when the game was on the line, Shaw threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Bruce Ellington (who leads the team with 43 receptions, 635 yards and six touchdowns) on 4th-and-goal with his team down seven in overtime. Shaw led the Gamecocks to converting 3-of-5 fourth downs on the day. Bottom line, Shaw can play. So can the defense.
With Clemson in town during the final week of the regular season, the South Carolina defense was vital in helping to orchestrate the team's 31-17 victory. The Gamecocks forced six turnovers, four in the final 15 minutes and Jadeveon Clowney -- widely recognized as the probable No. 1 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft -- got his first sack in six weeks. Three fumble recoveries on the day gave South Carolina a total of 11 on the season, tied for 21st in the nation.
Shaw threw for one touchdown and ran for another -- he also led the team with 94 yards on the ground -- in his final game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Not clowning around
Last season, Clowney became a household name in large part thanks to the lick he put on Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl against Michigan. Due to Clowney's dominance as a sophomore -- 13 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss -- many speculated as to whether or not the 6'6 defensive end would sit on the sidelines for his junior season in order to avoid injuring himself and putting his NFL future in jeopardy.
The Rock Hill, S.C., native did suit up for his junior season, but the returns have not yielded what the South Carolina faithful has grown accustomed to. In 10 games this season, Clowney sat out two contests with injuries (a conversation for a different time) and recorded just three sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss.
In Clowney's place for the Gamecocks has been 6'4, 298-pound junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles. Through 12 games, Quarles has 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss, both second in the SEC.
With Clowney and Quarles up front, the Gamecocks boast the second-best rush defense in the SEC (142.2 yards allowed per game) and the fourth-best pass defense in the conference (202.8 yards allowed per game).
On second thought...
In order to fully understand the South Carolina defense, one needs a bit of context and perspective. While the Gamecocks rank second in the SEC in rush defense, when compared to the rest of the country, they fail to crack even the top-30. Indeed, Georgia was able to gain 227 yards on the ground and 309 through the air on its way to scoring 41 points; UCF threw for 358 yards; Brett Bielema's Arkansas team rushed for 218; Mississippi State aired out 235 a week after Missouri put up 249; Florida, yes Florida, rushed for 200; and to top it all off, the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (I mean how could you not want to go to that school when this is their mascot?) threw for 222 yards.
Everyone who has followed he 2013 Badgers is keenly aware that their running game has never been in question. Joel Stave, we're looking at you.
What else is in the Capital One Bowl's wallet?
- South Carolina running back Mike Davis has rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
- The two teams have never faced one another.
- Wisconsin defensive backTanner McEvoy will be going up against his former team and former coach, who recruited him to be their quarterback three seasons ago.
- Shaw has thrown for 21 touchdowns and just one interception all season.
- South Carolina opens up as a 2.5-point favorite.
Both Gary Andersen (1-1 all-time in bowl games) and Steve Spurrier (9-10 all-time in bowl games) will be spending the next several weeks studying film and making as many adjustments as possible. Having this time to implement a game plan is virtually impossible during the regular season. The SEC has gone 4-2 in the Capital One Bowl since Wisconsin's back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007. Since then, the Badgers are just 1-5 in bowl games, and are looking to end a three-game bowl loosing streak. For their part, the Gamecocks are looking to win their third straight bowl game. Plans are one thing, but on field execution will ultimately determine which team has its streak end.
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