Capital One Bowl breakdown: South Carolina vs. Wisconsin
South Carolina (10-2) vs. Wisconsin (9-3)
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ABC)
• Reason to watch: Both teams might have qualified for BCS bowls if not for a pair of unexpected losses: South Carolina fell to Tennessee 23-21 on Oct. 19, and Wisconsin lost to Penn State 31-24 on Nov. 30. Advanced statistics suggest the programs are BCS-caliber, as the Badgers (No. 10) and Gamecocks (No. 14) both rank in the top 14 of Football Outsiders' F/+ ratings. That may disappoint Wisconsin and South Carolina fans who feel their teams are capable of competing with this year's BCS participants, but it surely makes for an intriguing Capital One Bowl matchup.
This will be the first time in four seasons that the Badgers will not play in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin can still clinch its fourth 10-win campaign in five years with a victory, but that would require snapping a three-year bowl losing streak. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks have won two of their last three bowl games, including a 30-13 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl following the 2011 season. A victory would secure three consecutive 11-win campaigns; the Gamecocks had never won 11 games -- or finished a season in the top 10 of the AP Poll -- before coach Steve Spurrier was hired in '04.
• Keep an eye on: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Fans undoubtedly remember the hit Clowney laid on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in the fourth quarter of last year's Outback Bowl. Clowney may not obliterate any of the Badgers' running backs, but this will likely be his final game in college. After a somewhat disappointing season defined by nagging injuries and questions about his conditioning and commitment, Clowney seems motivated to close out his career on a positive note. "Right now, my mind's on the team, trying to finish the season off strong and win this game against Wisconsin," Clowney told the Associated Press on Dec. 17.
• Did you know? No team has lost a smaller percentage of its fumbles this season than Wisconsin. The Badgers have coughed the ball up 17 times and recovered it 14, an 82.4 percent rate. The next highest rate among FBS teams is UCLA (72.7 percent).
• Final analysis: The Gamecocks' defensive line boasts two future NFL draft picks in Clowney and tackle Kelcy Quarles (9.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss), who should make things difficult for Badgers tailbacks Melvin Gordon (1,466 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns) and James White (1,377 rushing yards, 13 scores). Wisconsin, which averages 6.61 yards per rushing attempt, will look to use its powerful ground game to sustain drives and keep the ball away from South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw (2,135 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, one interception). In the end, expect the Badgers to stretch the Gamecocks' defense by targeting big-play threat Jared Abbrederis (1,051 receiving yards, seven touchdowns).
• The pick: Wisconsin 24, South Carolina 20