Wisconsin Football: Capital One Bowl preview

Wisconsin football will look to finish Gary Andersen’s first year as head coach with a statement victory in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina.

The game will kick off Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. at 1 p.m. ET and will be televised on ABC.

Last month, Wisconsin was the talk of the nation, a team that had ripped off six straight wins and was poised for a potential BCS at-large bid despite September losses to Arizona State and Ohio State. But on Senior Day in the regular season finale, the Badgers played terribly and suffered a demoralizing loss to Penn State.

It was Wisconsin’s worst performance of the season. The defense was ripped apart by freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg to the tune of 339 passing yards and four touchdowns. With the defense playing poorly, Badgers’ quarterback Joel Stave’s mistakes were accentuated. He finished with three interceptions and multiple off-target throws.

Though Michigan State’s victory over the Buckeyes in the Big Ten Championship game effectively eliminated Wisconsin from the BCS conversation regardless, the loss created all kinds of questions. Stave has faced critics all season, and another mediocre game added to the doubts that he is a viable starting option.

The defense was fantastic all year, but looked lost as the Nittany Lions averaged eight yards per play on offense. With the unit appearing ill prepared, Andersen and his staff also faced their doubters.

With three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances, Andersen had a lot of pressure to continue the success. Whether this season is deemed a success, however, may come down to the bowl game.

Quarterback Connor Shaw leads the Gamecocks on offense. The senior has had a remarkably productive career, with nearly 6,000 yards passing and over 1,500 yards rushing. This year, Shaw has continued his strong play. Most impressively, he has thrown 21 touchdowns but just one interception.

Quarterback Connor Shaw looks to finish his special career with a victory.

Quarterback Connor Shaw looks to finish his special career with a victory.

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney has had a down year following his extraordinary sophomore campaign in 2012. As he suits up for what will likely be his final game, the Badgers still must account for his playmaking ability. He can still wreak havoc, particularly against the relatively immobile Stave.

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Wisconsin is considered the favorite on the betting line in the inaugural matchup between these two schools. However, many people still consider South Carolina as the team to beat, after facing stiff SEC competition all season.

The Badgers have a lot to play for this New Year’s Day. They will be looking for their first bowl win since 2009, and that would certainly make Andersen’s first year a success.

However, they also have a chance to secure a statement victory against the nation’s premier football conference. The Big Ten has for years faced criticism for its failure to win important bowl games, and as 2014 begins, Wisconsin has a chance to help silence those critics.

Read more Wisconsin rumors, news and opinion on our Wisconsin football page