Papajohns.com Bowl: Connecticut (7-5) vs. South Carolina (7-5):
Jan. 2, 2 p.m. (ESPN)
Connecticut take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: The reason why UConn is going bowling is because of its late-season offensive improvement.
The Huskies are known mostly for their running game, and backs Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards this season. More than that, though, the passing game finally started to develop late in the year with quarterback Zach Frazer at the helm. UConn scored 45 points against Cincinnati, 33 at Notre Dame, 56 against Syracuse and 29 in the snow against South Florida on Saturday, engineering a winning field goal drive with less than a minute to play.
Just how far has the Connecticut offense come? Playing South Carolina should provide a good measuring stick.
The Gamecocks had one of the SEC's toughest defenses this season, allowing just 20 points per game. They held Alabama to that number and Florida to 24.
It's funny, because South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier is a legendary offensive guru, while UConn's Randy Edsall built his reputation on defense. But now Spurrier is relying on his defense, while Edsall is hoping to outscore people while covering up holes on the other side of the ball.
The Huskies are one of the best stories of the bowl season, having overcome the death of Jasper Howard in October to rally together and make the postseason. They should get the bulk of the support from the nonpartisan fans sitting in the Birmingham stands and watching this game on TV.
South Carolina take by SEC blogger Chris Low:South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said the Gamecocks weren’t picky, that they’d go play wherever they were told to go. As it turns out, they were the last team picked in the SEC’s bowl pecking order and will square off against Connecticut in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
The game will be played at Legion Field, where Spurrier won his first SEC championship game while coaching at Florida in 1993. Some 16 years later, he hopes to cap South Carolina’s season with a win for only the second time in his five years as the Gamecocks’ coach.
At one point this season, it looked like the Gamecocks might be teetering after one-sided losses at Tennessee and Arkansas. But they regrouped and lost to Florida in a game that went down to the fourth quarter, and after a bye week, whipped Clemson in the regular-season finale in their most complete effort of the season.
There’s a lot of young talent on this team, led by freshman cornerback Stephon Gilmore, freshman receiver Alshon Jeffery, redshirt freshman defensive end Devin Taylor and sophomore quarterback Stephen Garcia.
The Gamecocks could be one of the teams to watch next season in the Eastern Division. Getting to eight wins and playing well in Birmingham would be a good way to go into the offseason.