Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)|
Monday, January 2nd, 1:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: In search of the first 11-win season in school history, the South
Carolina Gamecocks have come to sunny Florida to challenge the Nebraska
Cornhuskers in the 2012 Capital One Bowl.
While failing to reach its ultimate goal, Nebraska made its first season in
the Big Ten Conference a memorable one as the team went 9-3 overall, 5-3 in
league play, to notch its fourth straight nine-win campaign under current head
coach Bo Pelini. The Cornhuskers split their final four games of the regular
season, but posted a solid 20-7 win in their finale at home over Iowa on
Nebraska is appearing in its 48th bowl game -- fourth-best nationally -- with
this being its second trip the Capital One Bowl (1991 when it known as the
Florida Citrus Bowl being the other). The Huskers are 24-23 in their previous
postseason ventures, and they had a three-game win streak in bowls stopped
last season with a 19-7 loss to Washington in the Holiday Bowl. Nebraska is
12-5 all-time in bowl games against teams from the SEC, and is 8-10 all-time
in bowl games played in the state of Florida.
South Carolina had hoped to challenge for the SEC crown this year, but things
didn't quite go according to plan for coach Steve Spurrier's club as it
finished 10-2 on the year, with both losses coming in conference play. This is
the Gamecocks' second time participating in what is now known as the Capital
One Bowl, as they played in the 1975 Tangerine Bowl as it was known from
1947-1982. It was the Florida Citrus Bowl from 1983-2002.
USC is 4-12 all-time in bowl games, losing its first eight between 1945 and
1988, then winning four of its next five (between 1994 and 2006) before its
current run of futility that has seen the team lose each of the last three.
Last year, the Gamecocks dropped a 26-17 decision to Florida State in the
This bout marks just the fourth meeting between Nebraska and South Carolina on
the gridiron, and the Cornhuskers won the first three. The last encounter took
place in 1987, and this is the first time the two have met in the postseason.
Nebraska's offense has been efficient this year in putting up 30.5 ppg on
typical outputs of 223.9 ypg rushing and 166.6 ypg passing. The ground game
has accounted for 30 of the team's 42 offensive TDs, and the unit has been
pretty good about protecting the football (17 turnovers). Rex Burkhead has
been the Huskers' workhorse out of the backfield, churning out 1,268 yards and
15 TDs in averaging almost five yards per carry. QB Taylor Martinez didn't
have an exceptional year throwing the ball (152-of-272, 1,973 yards, 12 TDs,
seven INTs), but when you factor in the damage he is capable of doing with his
legs (172 carries, 837 yards, nine TDs), this an offense that earns its keep
by coming right at you. The offensive line not only opened gaping holes in the
run game, but surrendered just 15 sacks as well.
While not quite on par with some of the dominant defenses in the Big Ten, the
Cornhuskers still managed to play well enough on that side of the ball to help
the team to yet another nine-win season. Foes average 22.8 ppg against them,
and they typically allow 350.7 ypg. A total of 18 turnovers and 17 sacks have
been logged by the defense, and while it's true the number of big plays turned
in by the unit weren't ideal, there is no denying the talent of at least one
guy -- LB Lavonte David (122 tackles, 11 TFL, 3.5 sacks, two INTs, Two forced
fumbles, two fumble recoveries).
In four bowl games with Pelini either serving as head coach or as the team's
defensive coordinator, the Cornhuskers have given up just 10.8 ppg, the
highlight of which being a 33-0 victory over Arizona in the 2009 Holiday Bowl.
Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck, who went to college in Orlando (UCF),
spoke recently about the preparation the team has endured, "Our guys are
practicing really hard and our retention's been good, our tempo's been good.
I've been pleased. Obviously, we have a couple more days to shore up some of
the finer details of the game, but I like where we're at right now."
Despite losing both its starting QB and RB at different times this season,
South Carolina still managed to average 30.1 ppg and generate 375.4 ypg of
total offense. Stephen Garcia was supposed to be the man to lead the Gamecocks
to the promised land, but the much-maligned signal-caller lasted five games
this season before being bounced from the team, leaving the full-time job to
Connor Shaw, who did his best to keep the ship moving in the right direction
by completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 1,218 yards, 12 TDs and six INTs.
Star RB Marcus Lattimore had rushed for 818 yards and 10 TDs before suffering
a serious knee injury midway through the season, but the team rallied in his
absence as Brandon Wilds and Shaw took over, the two combining for 1,134
rushing yards and 10 scores on the year.
With the offense having its issues, the USC defense is what kept the team's
lofty postseason aspirations alive as foes were permitted just 18.8 points and
268.9 total yards per contest. The Gamecocks are particularly tough against
the pass, yielding a mere 133.0 ypg and only 4.8 yards per attempt.
Collectively, the unit came up with 30 turnovers (18 INTs, 12 fumbles) during
the regular season, and was led by Antonio Allen with 81 total tackles. D.J.
Swearinger tallied 73 takedowns, and the two combined for six INTs. Melvin
Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney are the stop gaps up front for USC, as they
combined for 23.5 TFL and 14 of the team's 25 sacks.
Spurrier, who recently received a two-year contract extension to keep him in
Columbia through the 2015 season, was excited to get a call telling him of his
team's postseason destination, "They've invited us to play in the Capital One
Bowl against Nebraska. We certainly accepted and we're excited to go to this
bowl. A lot of teams, coaches and players think this is one of the best bowl
trips in the country." He went on to say, "We have a lot to play for, going
for that 11th win and getting a shot to be the winningest team in school
history. We're looking forward to regrouping, trying to get a solid game plan,
playing our best and then whatever happens happens down there."
This should be a physical game between two teams that are sure to leave it all
out on the field. Expect both to have some success on offense, although the
USC defense will likely be the stronger of those two groups. In the end,
expect Spurrier to lead his team to victory, thus snapping the Gamecocks'
three-game bowl losing streak.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 27, Nebraska 24
12/30 16:17:48 ET