Big Ten: Kelcy Quarles

Capital One Bowl preview

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
9:00
AM ET
Wisconsin is hoping to change the Big Ten's fortunes with a win in the Capital One Bowl, while South Carolina is on the verge of clinching a program-best third straight season with a bowl win.

The two teams will face each other at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday (ABC). Here's a quick preview:

Who to watch: South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland. This will be the last college game for both players, and you can bet they'll want to end their respective careers on a high note. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will almost certainly call Clowney's name within the first five picks of the draft, and Borland was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Clowney has dealt with injuries and more double-teams this season, so his stats are down -- but, when he's on, he's one of the most exciting players in college to watch. Borland led his team with 102 tackles -- 40 more stops than the No. 2 tackler -- and has been the heartbeat of Wisconsin's defense. Both of these defensive players have the uncanny ability to take control of a game.

What to watch: Wisconsin's run game. It's no secret that if the Badgers are going to win, then they're going to have to run the ball. That's been the staple of their offense. Wisconsin is the only team in the FBS with two running backs, James White and Melvin Gordon, who both average more than 100 rushing yards a game. And the Badgers are second in the FBS by averaging 6.61 yards per carry. On the flip side, South Carolina's defensive line will be a huge test for this rushing attack. DT Kelcy Quarles has been compared to Warren Sapp and currently has 13.5 tackles for loss to go along with 9.5 sacks. Then, of course, there's Clowney. Wisconsin's success rushing the ball could march hand in hand with its overall success in this game.

Why to watch: This game features some of the best defensive players either conference has to offer, three all-conference tailbacks will be showcased, and then there's South Carolina QB Connor Shaw (21 TDs, 1 INT) and Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis (73 catches, 1,051 yards). What's not to love? Outside of that, this is the first-ever matchup of these two teams, and the Badgers are trying to rebound from an upset to Penn State. Both teams weren't that far off from BCS bowls, so this is a strong matchup for the Capital One Bowl.

Prediction: South Carolina 28, Wisconsin 24.
Gary Andersen has helped compile extensive scouting reports for both defenses appearing in Wednesday's Capital One Bowl.

In the summer of 2012, Andersen, then Utah State's coach, examined a Wisconsin team that his Aggies would face in Week 3. South Carolina's defense has been on the top of his mind the past three weeks, as Andersen prepares Wisconsin to face the Gamecocks.

[+] EnlargeChris Borland
Dan Sanger/Icon SMIFour-year Wisconsin starter Chris Borland is set to close out his college career on Wednesday.
Not surprisingly, the South Carolina report is filled with mentions of Jadeveon Clowney, just like the Wisconsin report was with Chris Borland a year and a half ago.

"If you're playing Wisconsin, you're going to want to know where Chris is, and the same thing with Clowney as you're getting ready to play South Carolina," Andersen told ESPN.com. "They deserve that; they're that good. They're very similar players in those areas."

Similar might not be the first term used to link Clowney, South Carolina's junior defensive end, and Borland, Wisconsin's senior middle linebacker. Clowney is 6-foot-6 and 274 pounds, a rare physical specimen who came into college as the nation's No. 1 recruit and could exit as the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. Clowney recorded a team-record 13.5 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss as a sophomore, earned unanimous All-America honors and finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, leading many to wonder if he should even play this season before jumping to the NFL. He suited up for South Carolina and, despite some speed bumps, still earned first-team All-SEC honors.

Borland is short at 5-foot-11. His recruiting profile next to Clowney's is laughable. He played soccer and other sports growing up, didn't participate in organized football until high school and appeared headed for a Division III school until wowing Wisconsin at a summer camp before his senior season. Of the 17 players in Wisconsin's 2009 recruiting class graded by ESPN recruiting, Borland received the second lowest.

He'll finish his career Wednesday as one of the best defensive players in team history, a four-year starter with multiple All-America honors who earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors this season. His NFL draft forecast isn't as promising as Clowney's -- most mocks have him in the second or third round -- but few defensive players have more accomplished college careers.

"He's as good as advertised," Andersen said, "just like I'm sure the Clowney kid is."

Clowney was the first player Andersen and Wisconsin's offensive coaches discussed when crafting Wednesday's game plan. But the strength of South Carolina's overall front seven, which includes first-team All-SEC tackle Kelcy Quarles and second-team All-SEC linebacker Sharrod Golightly, prevents the Badgers from constantly doubling, chipping or avoiding No. 7.

"Is he consciously in our game plan? Yes. But is every play designed to run away from him? Absolutely not," Andersen said. "We've got to get in there and do what we do. Our goal is to block him and put him a spot where he can't make plays."

South Carolina will take a similar approach against Borland, just like Andersen did with Utah State in 2012. It won't be easy, largely because of the position Borland plays.

Utah State tried to take Borland out of the box with formations to make him play more in space.

"A defensive end is on the left side or the right side," Andersen said. "Chris starts every play usually right in the middle of the defense, so it's harder to scheme if you want to run the ball between the tackles."

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Jim Dedmon/Icon SMIThe Badgers will need to know where South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney is at all times.
Andersen has never seen a college player quite like Clowney. Wisconsin guard Ryan Groy called the South Carolina star "a breed of his own" and admits there's no one that truly prepare you for his size-strength-speed combination.

Clowney also is an effective gambler, taking chances with inside moves both against the run and the pass. Defensive ends risk losing contain by doing this, but Clowney still usually covers the edge.

"You would never allow a young man who can't recover if he's making those inside moves, but it's also part of their scheme," Andersen said. "They have a backer that overhangs him and pre-snap, it's very difficult to sit there and understand that's what you’re going to get. He does a nice job of not giving it away when he's going to make those moves, and maybe it's just him reacting. Maybe he's that gifted that he feels like you're reaching a little bit and he can come underneath that block, or if you get a little bit on your heels in a pass set, he's either going to right through you or he’s going to come on an inside move.

"They probably don't even look at it as taking chances. They probably look at it as, 'This is our defensive scheme.'"

Clowney has one year of eligibility remaining, but Wednesday marks his final game with South Carolina. He participated in senior day ceremonies Nov. 30.

"He'll be an instant pro when the game is over," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Tuesday.

It will be a shock if Clowney isn't one of the first five names called at April's NFL draft. Borland still can boost his stock at the Senior Bowl and other pre-draft events.

His height will come up, but Andersen has received positive feedback from NFL scouts, who liken Borland to two other shorter linebackers, Sam Mills and Zach Thomas, who had 12 Pro Bowl appearances and 11 All-Pro selections in their careers.

"Somebody better take him early because if somebody takes him late, Chris is going to make a whole lot of people look bad," Andersen said. "He’s going to be a great player in that league for many, many years, not just because he's so talented, but because he's such a great preparer and his care factor is as good or anybody that I've ever been around."

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.

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