Capital One Bowl 2012: 5 Reasons Nebraska Will Embarrass South Carolina
The Nebraska Cornhuskers are going to come out on top over the South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2012 Capital One Bowl.
One might think that the South Carolina defense will hold Nebraska out of the end zone, but the Cornhuskers can dominate the time of possession by running the ball down South Carolina's throats.
The Cornhuskers offensive line is poised for a big game, and the Nebraska defense won't be seeing anything new.
A coaching change in the South Carolina staff could present an advantage for the Cornhuskers as well, and the special teams battle won't even be close.
Nebraska's Running Game
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South Carolina has a dominant pass defense. It's ranked second in the FBS, but the Nebraska Cornhuskers have a way to combat South Carolina's unforgiving pass defense: running the ball.
South Carolina has held opposing teams to just 133 passing yards per game, and the Gamecocks 44th-ranked run defense gives up 135.92 rushing yards each outing.
Nebraska ranks 13th in the FBS in rushing yards per game with 223.92, so the Cornhuskers are strongest where the South Carolina defense is weakest (although weak is a relative term).
Nebraska has a two-person running attack spearheaded by quarterback Taylor Martinez and running back Rex Burkhead.
Burkhead has 1,268 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on the year, while Martinez has rushed for 837 yards and nine touchdowns.
Both players are averaging 4.9 yards per carry, and they've been focal point of the Nebraska offense.
Against South Carolina, Burkhead and Martinez will continue to get the bulk of the workload by running the ball.
Nebraska Offensive Line
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In a season where the offensive line was assumed to be one of Nebraska's weaknesses, the line is performing well.
The guys up front for Nebraska have helped lead the way to the 14th-best running game in the FBS (although Taylor Martinez's ability to take off has help as well).
Nebraska is also tied for 27th in sacks allowed and ranked 28th in tackles for loss allowed.
That bodes well for Nebraska.
The South Carolina defense is ranked 42nd in sacks, and it will have trouble getting to Martinez. If the Nebraska quarterback finds himself under pressure or his receivers covered, he doesn't have a problem taking off for a first down.
And South Carolina isn't going to blow up Nebraska's backfield, either. The Gamecocks are 43rd in tackles for loss, and with Rex Burkhead's north-south running style, it won't be easy for South Carolina to take him down behind the line of scrimmage.
South Carolina Offensive Line and Quarterback
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The Gamecock offensive line has been able to open up running lanes this season.
Marcus Lattimore had 818 yards in the first seven games of the season (Lattimore suffered a serious knee injury against Mississippi State), and Brandon Wilds took over in Week 7 and has amassed 486 rushing yards thus far.
So, the Gamecock offensive line has got the job done in run blocking, but it hasn't been very good in pass protection. The Gamecocks rank 81st in sacks allowed with 2.25 per game, and they haven't been great at stopping penetration behind the line of scrimmage, either. South Carolina is ranked 44th in tackles for loss allowed.
Nebraska has been pathetic getting after the quarterback, though. The Cornhuskers are ranked 93rd in sacks and a horrid 113th in tackles for loss.
The Cornhuskers might not get many sacks(although they should at least get pressure), but Nebraska has seen a number of schemes similar to the one South Carolina runs.
Staff writer Jon Nytwawa of Ohama.com wrote that the Cornhuskers have seen bootlegs, zone-read options, QB draws and leads, as well as improvisational quarterbacks against Ohio State, Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, so they are familiar with variations of the South Carolina offense and the threat posed by Shaw.
The Cornhuskers had quite a bit of practice against running quarterbacks this season, so the Nebraska defense won't be surprised against South Carolina.
A Change in Coaching at South Carolina
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South Carolina's defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach, Lorenzo Ward, is finally going to be calling plays.
Ellis Johnson, the former linebackers coach and playcaller for the Gamecocks defense, will be getting ready to take over as the head coach at Southern Mississippi.
An article on SouthCarolina.Rivals.com by Scott Hood highlighted that this will be Ward's one-game audition to remain as the coach who calls plays (and barring a complete collapse, he will probably keep the position).
Without Johnson, Nebraska will be playing a defense undergoing a coaching transition.
There is no doubting that South Carolina's defense is good, but Johnson's playcalling ability in the booth will be missed.
Ward will have to learn on the job, and his in-game adjustments might be a step slow.
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Sometimes, it is little things like field position that can give the edge to one team.
A few extra yards on a return or a great punt can be the difference between being within field-goal range or having to kick the ball away on fourth down.
In special teams, Nebraska easily has the advantage.
The Cornhuskers are ranked sixth in kickoff returns, 23rd in net punting and 60th in punt returns. South Carolina is ranked 70th in punt returns, 72nd in kickoff returns and 93rd in net punting.
Field goals fall in Nebraska's favor as well.
Brett Maher has made 19 of 22 field goals for the Cornhuskers, and his only misses on the season came from 50 yards or further.
Jay Wooten, the South Carolina kicker, is 7-for-10 with three misses between 40 and 49 yards.