TEAMS: 19 Wisconsin (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) vs. 9 South Carolina (10-2, 6-2 SEC)
TIME: January 1st, 1:00 p.m. EST
The Capital One Bowl is another traditional meeting between the Big Ten and the SEC. This one boasts a very intriguing matchup between to nationally ranked teams. The Wisconsin Badgers, who had Rose Bowl aspirations before losing the season-finale to Penn State, go against another team that had high hopes, the South Carolina Gamecocks. An interesting subplot in this game will be the fact that star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who’s expected to be one of the first guys taken in the upcoming NFL draft, will have his final chance to perform during a game for NFL scouts.
It’s a shock to no one that Wisconsin relies heavily on the running game, as that’s been a trend in Madison over the last several years. That statement is true again this year, as the Badgers have an ultra-talented duo in Melvin Gordon and James White. Gordon led the team in rushing with 1,466 yards and averaged a suburb 8.1 yards per carry. Gordon scored 12 rushing touchdowns this season. White added 1,337 yards and led the team with 13 rushing touchdowns.
Wisconsin was eighth this year in rushing, racking up 283 yards a game.
When the Badgers are not running the ball, quarterback Joel Stave has a few talented targets to throw to. For the season, Stave threw for 2,414 yards and 20 touchdowns. The ever-reliable Jared Abbrederis was once again the team’s leading receiver with 73 catches for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns.
Aside from Mr. Reliable, Stave also has tight end Jacob Pedersen and White out of the backfield to throw to.
What makes Wisconsin so tough is the fact that not only do the Badgers have one of the best rushing offenses in the nation, they also possess one of the top defenses, ranking fifth, giving up just 14.8 points a game.
While Wisconsin relies on the run, South Carolina usually relies heavily on the pass, led by quarterback Connor Shaw. The senior signal-caller had a fantastic season, throwing for 2,135 yards and 21 touchdowns. Shaw showed a remarkable ability to avoid the big mistake, throwing just one interception.
Catching the ball from Shaw is top receiver Bruce Ellington, who had 43 receptions for 635 yards and six touchdowns. Damiere Byrd, who added 575 receiving yards and four touchdowns, will miss the game with an injury. Shaq Roland was second on the team with five touchdowns.
Having Byrd out of the lineup may cause the Gamecocks to run the ball a bit more with leading rusher Mike Davis. The sophomore had a great season, rushing for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Like Wisconsin, South Carolina also has a stout defense. The Gamecocks allowed 20 points a game, ranking them 14th in the nation. Of course, there can’t be a discussion about the South Carolina defense without mentioning Clowney. While the season was a bit of a disappointment, he still did enough to be considered the best defensive player in college football.
This one has the potential to be one of the best games of the entire bowl season. I don’t expect either team to build a big lead, as both defenses should keep it close. South Carolina will ultimately prevail, but it will be tough.
Wisconsin 24 South Carolina 27
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