By Mark Miller
#19 Wisconsin Badgers vs #9 South Carolina Gamecocks
Wednesday – January 1 – 12:00 PM
Florida Citrus Bowl – Orlando
This bowl pits Wisconsin, runner-up in the Big 10 Conference Leaders Division, and South Carolina, second in the Southeast Conference East Division.
Wisconsin enters the contest with a 9-3 record while South Carolina is 10-2. The Badgers only lost at No. 14 Arizona State, at No. 7 Ohio State, and at home against unranked Penn State. The latter game ended a six-game winning streak that included games over bowl teams Iowa, Minnesota, and Brigham Young.
South Carolina’s only losses were at No. 11 Georgia and unranked Tennessee. The Gamecocks did beat bowl-bound Vanderbilt, Central Florida, No. 5 Missouri, Mississippi State, and No. 6 Clemson.
# 19 Wisconsin Badgers
Though the Badgers had a new coach in Gary Andersen, they continued to rely on a strong ground game in 2013. Running behind one of the nation’s biggest offensive lines, backs Melvin Gordon (1,466 yards, 12 touchdowns) and James White (1,337, 13) combined for more yards and scores than did quarterback Joel Stave (2,414, 20). Jared Abberderis caught 73 of Stave’s passes for 1,051 yards and seven touchdowns.
Defensively, the Badgers are led by linebacker Chris Borland. He led a group that had two shutouts and six games giving up 10 or fewer points. Wisconsin averaged nearly 36 points per game while yielding just under 15.
The Badgers hope to snap a post-season streak of losses in the last three Rose Bowls to Stanford, Oregon, and Texas Christian.
#9 South Carolina Gamecocks
While defensive end Jadeveon Clowney receives most of the publicity, the Gamecocks are far more than a one-man team. Among his key teammates is running back Mike Davis, who ran for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Connor Shaw threw for 2,135 yards and 21 scores but more important, was intercepted just once in 259 attempts. Bruce Ellington caught 43 of Shaw’s passes for 635 yards and six scores. Damiere Byrd was next with 32 catches for 575 yards and four touchdowns.
South Carolina scored an average of 34 points a game and gave up 20.
South Carolina won its last two matchups against the Big 10 – 33-28 over Michigan State in last season’s Outback Bowl and 30-13 over Nebraska in the previous year’s Capital One Bowl.
Prediction: South Carolina might be very familiar with Big 10 football, Wisconsin will just run and run until time expires with a victory. Wisconsin 24 – South Carolina 21