South Carolina Football: Capital One Bowl Bound vs. Nebraska

The Capital One Bowl will feature the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  This game will feature two similar teams that rely on their run games and their defenses.  Which team is more effective in those two categories should determine the outcome.

The Gamecocks, which finished the season at 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the conference, will face Nebraska.  The Huskers finished 9-3 in its first year in the conference.

Nebraska last played in the bowl, then known as the Citrus, in 1990 losing to eventual national champion Georgia Tech. South Carolina made its one and only appearance in the Orlando, Fla.-based bowl on December 20, 1975 facing Miami (Ohio), dropping a 20-7 decision.

This meeting will be the first between the two schools since 1987 and the first ever in the postseason. Nebraska holds a 3-0 edge in the all-time series between the two schools.  They have not met since 1987 and this will be the first time they will square-off in postseason play

Now all the speculation is over and the match-up is set.  Here are some thoughts on the upcoming game:

Bowl basics

Where: Orlando, Fla. – Florida Citrus Bowl (65,438)

When: January 2, 2012 – 1 p.m. on ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Rod Gilmore, Quint Kessenich)

Opponent: The Nebraska Cornhuskers out of the Big Ten Conference where they finished 5-3 against conference foes.

Payout: $4.25 million per team

In the last Capital One Bowl, Alabama beat Michigan State 49-7. Prior to that game, the Big Ten had won 5-of-6 games against the SEC in the Capital One Bowl. The SEC was on a three-game win streak from the 2001-03 seasons.

Gamecocks Strength

The strength of the South Carolina football team lies in their defense.  The Gamecocks rank second in the nation in pass defense (133 yds. per game) and rank fourth in overall total defense (268 yds. per game) in the country.

The Gamecocks are led by Antonio Allen, who averages 7 tackles a game, and Melvin Ingram, who ranks 18th in the nation in sacks per game and 48th in tackles for loss.

Cornhuskers Strength

The Huskers have a potent offense that ranks 59th in the nation (390 yds. per game) and what makes it so good is their running attack.  The “Big Red” rushing attack ranks 13th in the nation as they average 223 yards on the ground per game.

Nebraska is led by Rex Burkhead on the ground as he averages 105 yards per game, which ranks him 21st in the nation for rushing.

Gamecocks Weakness

The Gamecocks weak spot is their special teams both in coverage and in returns.  The Gamecocks coverage unit has been spotty at times and this does not bode well for them on paper against Nebraska as they rank eighth in the nation in kickoff returns with a good special teams squad.

For USC to be successful in the game, their special teams must step up.

Nebraska Weakness

Some may call it a balanced attack with such as great rushing offense but the Huskers pass attack is suspect.  They rank 103rd in the nation as they accumulate just 166 yards on average through the air.

Nebraska will have to do better via the pass against the Gamecocks to find success in Orlando.

USC’s Key Player

Connor Shaw is the key player for USC.  He is their quarterback and their leader.  He can hurt you via the pass or using his own legs to move the chains. 

For 2011, he has completed 112 of 171 pass attempts for 1218 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions.  On the ground, he has amassed 483 yards and seven touchdowns.

Nebraska’s Key Player

Hands down it is Taylor Martinez as he lethal on the ground and can be effective with his passing arm.

On the ground, he has nine touchdowns and 837 yards.  Through the air, he has completed 152 of 272 passes for 1973 yards with 12 touchdowns and only seven interceptions.

Early Prediction

This will be a very good game as on paper these two teams are similar as they lean on an effective ground game to open up their passing attack and they both have stingy defenses.

For USC to win this game, it is simple as they must stop the Nebraska run game.

For Nebraska, it is more about limiting Connor Shaw’s abilities and that is only done by constant pressure.

The early prediction for this game is for South Carolina to have their defense lead the way in limiting the Cornhuskers.  Look for the Gamecocks to win this game by the score of 24-17.


About flounder

Two-time grad of THE University of South Carolina.