South Carolina Football: Key for Gamecocks against Wisconsin

South Carolina Gamecocks

Mike Davis (photo credit: espn.go.com)

The eighth ranked South Carolina Gamecocks returned to practice on Tuesday to begin preparations for their Capital One Bowl matchup against the nineteenth ranked Wisconsin Badgers.  The players have concluded the fall semester and have turned all their attention to finishing yet another phenomenal season on a high note.  For the third year in a row the Gamecocks have the chance to finish in the top ten with eleven wins.

Concluding the season with a third straight bowl win will not be an easy feat for the Gamecocks.  Big Ten powerhouse Wisconsin plays a physical brand of football that is not easy to compete with and will have plenty of motivation for the Capital One Bowl.

Wisconsin is still stinging from a shocking 31-24 loss to Penn State on the Badgers’ Senior Day.  The Nittany Lions pulled off the upset to just add more misery for a Wisconsin team that is missing out on the Rose Bowl for the first time in three seasons.  These setbacks are firing up the Badgers, and they are relishing the opportunity to play a team ranked in the top ten to conclude the 2013 season.

South Carolina will also be motivated for this game.  Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks are still looking to prove that they are the real deal in the SEC despite failing to reach Atlanta for the third straight year.  The dedicated seniors are looking to finish on a high note, and Jadeveon Clowney is looking to impress for his draft stock.

Motivation will not be the issue for either team.  This game will be decided at the line of scrimmage.  Wisconsin is an extremely physical team and wins games by punishing opposing teams up front on both sides of the ball.  The Badgers rank eighth in the country and have rushed for 283 yards per game this season.

Wisconsin Badgers

Melvin Gordon (photo credit: college-football.si.com

Melvin Gordon and James White have both rushed for more than a thousand yards this season and will be the focal point of the Wisconsin attack.  The bulldozers up front give them plenty of room to work with and push opposing defensive lines around.

South Carolina’s defensive line is one of the best in the country, but Clowney and company are better known for pressuring the quarterback.  Star defensive ends Clowney and Chaz Sutton are usually associated with pass rushing, but both have done a phenomenal job stopping the run this season.  Add defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles to the mix, and the Gamecocks’ front four look to have a pretty good answer for the Badgers’ monster rushing attack.

South Carolina’s veteran offensive line has done a great job of providing time for Connor Shaw to make plays with his arm and feet.  Mike Davis, faced with the daunting task of replacing Marcus Lattimore, also had a very productive season eclipsing the thousand yard mark on the ground.  Wisconsin is quite good getting at the quarterback, and Shaw will have to be his usual elusive self if the Gamecocks are going to produce some points.

It’s hard to tell an early favorite yet, but it is quite clear that the battle in the trenches will be very telling of the overall winner in this game.  If South Carolina can get Wisconsin away from its typical pounding rush attack and force some turnovers through the air, the Gamecocks will likely be able to escape this one with a win, but this will be no easy task for Steve Spurrier and company.