The Capital One Bowl, as it's been known since 2003, is a climactic end-of-season matchup featuring upper-tier teams from the SEC and Big Ten conferences. This year, it will play host to the SEC East's second-place South Carolina Gamecocks and the Big Ten's second-place Wisconsin Badgers.
The Gamecocks entered the 2013 college football season with high hopes. Returning major contributors on offense and defense, including quarterback Connor Shaw and projected top-five pick in the 2014 NFL draft defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina was as good a pick as any team to win the conference.
Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, two early losses all but eliminated them from BCS contention. Five straight impressive victories over the likes of Missouri and Clemson, however, spurred South Carolina to a regular season top-10 finish in the BCS standings.
As has seemed to become a trend for Wisconsin, the Badgers missed out on BCS contention by losing three games in heartbreaking fashion—falling by seven points or fewer in all three defeats.
What each team must do to win
South Carolina, a 1.5-point favorite (according to FoxSports.com), must be able to establish a solid threat in the running game against the sixth-ranked Badger defense that's allowing just 294 yards per game.
But most defenses have not handled well the two-headed monster of Connor Shaw and running back Mike Davis.
Davis does well to establish the running game early. The threat of him running the ball, along with Shaw's scrambling, opens up opportunities for big plays in the passing game. These assets partly explain why Shaw has thrown just one interception in 259 attempts.
Shaw's 511 rushing yards are good enough to rank him in the top 20 among quarterbacks in the NCAA.
The Gamecocks are in very good position to win. All they need to do is execute.
Wisconsin needs to do what every South Carolina opponent has done this season: avoid Jadeveon Clowney. The 6'6" 274-pound beast patrols either end and must always be accounted for by the offense.
It was this play in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day 2013 that made Clowney a household name.
In 2013, however, his production declined because of teams game-planning solely to avoid him. Clowney aside, South Carolina has a very opportunistic defense. The Gamecocks are plus-11 in turnover margin on the season.
Defensively, Wisconsin is no patsy. The Badgers demolished an Indiana team (51-3) that was averaging 508 yards per game. South Carolina's offense, however, is equally skilled and more versatile.
Wisconsin must make use of every possession and not turn the ball over to have a chance to win.
South Carolina 28 Wisconsin 24
In the end, Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave won't be able to handle the relentless pressure of South Carolina's front four. The Gamecocks will control the clock and utilize a healthy mix of run and pass to demoralize the Badger defense.
An early double-digit South Carolina lead will give way to a late run by the Badgers, but the Gamecocks will hold on to win.
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