B1G bowl opponent primer: South Carolina

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
3:30
PM ET
This week, we’re taking a closer look at each of the Big Ten’s bowl opponents. Up next: the South Carolina Gamecocks, who will face Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.

Let's begin ...

CAPITAL ONE BOWL
No. 9 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3)
Orlando, Fla., 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 1, ABC


South Carolina Gamecocks

Coach: Steve Spurrier (76-39, ninth year with South Carolina; 218-79-2 overall)
Combined FBS opponents' record: 74-59 (seven bowl-bound teams)
Common opponents: None
Best wins: Central Florida, Clemson, Missouri
Worst loss: Tennessee
Record vs. Wisconsin: Never before met
Top passer: Connor Shaw (2,135 yards, 21 TDs, 1 INT)
Top rusher: Mike Davis (1,134 yards, 11 TDs)
Top defenders: Jadeveon Clowney (10.5 tackles-for-loss, 3 sacks, 8 QB hurries), Kelcy Quarles (13.5 tackles-for-loss, 9.5 sacks), Sharrod Golightly (44 tackles, 6 tackles-for-loss, 2 fumble recoveries), Victor Hampton (45 tackles, 3 INTs, 9 pass breakups)

What to know: The Gamecocks outlasted Missouri, 27-24, in double overtime -- and they were one more Mizzou loss away from a spot in the SEC title game. Spurrier is also now just one bowl win away from his third straight 11-win season so it's pretty clear this team doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. It runs a balanced offense, doesn't turn the ball over often (turnover margin: +11) and boasts the No. 18 defense in total yards allowed. It's above average in nearly every statistical category, and it very nearly won the SEC East. Tennessee upset South Carolina, 23-21, in a game that featured an injury to Shaw with about five minutes left and a last-second game-winning field goal. If South Carolina had won that game, it might be looking at a BCS bowl right now. The Gamecocks don't make a lot of mistakes and, in their past four games, haven't committed a single turnover. It's difficult to find an Achilles' heel on this team.

Key matchups: The battle in the trenches should be critical in this game. Clowney and Quarles have combined for 24 stops in the backfield and, when the defensive line plays well, South Carolina is difficult to stop. Wisconsin loves to bounce outside the tackles and averages an FBS-high 8.3 yards per carry on such runs so the ends' ability to contain those plays will be a top priority. On the flip side, Shaw performs at his best when he's given time in the pocket so Wisconsin's front seven needs to get pressure on him. Heading into the Clemson game, Shaw was completing 67.4 percent of his passes -- with 14 TDs and no INTs -- on passes inside the pocket. When he's forced to throw outside? Try 39.1 percent with six TDs and one pick. Whichever team gets the better push up front likely has the better chance to end its season with a win.

Josh Moyer | email

Penn State/Big Ten reporter

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