Stop me if you've heard this story before: South Carolina underclassman has a big performance on New Year's Day, makes every highlight reel for eight months and enters the season with Heisman hype in tow.
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney paved the way last summer after "The Hit" against Michigan's Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl, and running back Mike Davis could follow in his footsteps with a big performance against Wisconsin in the 2014 Capital One Bowl.
Wisconsin comes in with the Big Ten's second-best rush defense and sixth nationally at 101.3 yards per game. The Badgers are giving up just 3.2 yards per carry and have only allowed seven rushing touchdowns all season.
Davis hopes to be healthy for the Capital One Bowl, according to Ryan Wood of the Charleston Post and Courier. If Davis—who finished fourth in the SEC with 103 yards per game on the ground—has a big performance, expect him to vault into the preseason discussion for the Heisman Trophy.
At 5'9", 215 pounds, Davis packs a mean punch, has home run speed and will likely be the focal point of the Gamecocks offense when toe meets leather next summer.
|Top 5 SEC Rushers in 2013|
|Mike Davis||South Carolina||5.85||1,134||103.09|
Quarterback Connor Shaw will be gone, so new quarterback Dylan Thompson, freshman Connor Mitch or whoever else ascends to the starting quarterback spot will depend more on the running game from Davis than Shaw.
On top of that, South Carolina should be built to allow its new quarterback to rely on the running game more early, even if it is predictable. Four of South Carolina's five starters on the offensive line will return in 2014, which means the familiarity of the big uglies up front will allow holes to develop just a bit early and those three-yard gains from Davis will turn into five- and seven-yard gains.
Davis will be the focal point of the offense next season, but how many people will notice?
Being a team in the national title discussion or, at the very least, on the periphery, is typically the first step of the Heisman process.
Can South Carolina elevate itself to that discussion without its leader on offense, Shaw, and its superstar on defense, Clowney?
It's going to be on Davis to make that happen.
The Gamecocks host Texas A&M, Georgia and Missouri, and visit Vanderbilt all in the first month of the season. Those are a lot of potholes to navigate, and Davis will be behind the wheel.
A big performance versus the Badgers will earn him a jump start on the competition, and if South Carolina can hit the ground running in 2014, Davis will likely be at, or near, the top of the early-season Heisman discussion.