Back in the sun: Gamecocks bound for Capital One Bowl

USC returns to a familiar place to face run-happy Badgers

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 8, 2013 

South Carolina announced its invitation to the Capital One Bowl on Sunday night, by which time the trip was common knowledge and any frustration the Gamecocks have of missing the BCS again was long since packed away.

South Carolina (10-2) will be playing in the SEC’s premier non-BCS bowl game against No. 19 Wisconsin, a team it has never faced, on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla. The Gamecocks will then have to watch two teams they beat during the regular season — Clemson and UCF — play in BCS bowls and receive all the attention that comes with those marquee games.

“Nobody said it was supposed to be fair,” USC coach Steve Spurrier said. “College football is not all that fair, but really a BCS game or a Capital One Bowl game, what’s the difference? A little bit more money to the school or conference. Players get the same amount of gifts and expense money to spend so it’s not that big a deal.”

BCS bowls provide a payout of more than $15 million for participating schools, compared to around $4.5 million for the Capital One Bowl, but the SEC’s distribution system stipulates that most of each team’s bowl money is divided equally among conference schools, so the financial hit is not huge for South Carolina’s budget.

The Gamecocks are the only team in the country with two wins over BCS teams during the regular season.

“I would rather be in our scenario where we beat (Clemson and UCF) rather than them beat us and us go the BCS game,” senior quarterback Connor Shaw said. “I am happy in the position we are in.”

South Carolina will be looking for its third straight 11-2 season, a streak that began when it beat Nebraska 30-13 in the Capital One Bowl following the 2011 regular season.

“Ten (wins) is not all that easy,” Spurrier said. “When you look around and you see Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, all those guys who won 10 last year, they didn’t make it this year. It’s not something you do every year, so we are proud that we have done it three in a row.”

Prior to 2011, the Gamecocks had recorded 10 or more wins once in their history.

“Obviously, we would like to be undefeated right now, but you look back at the last three years and winning at least 10 games in the toughest conference in America, it’s pretty huge,” Shaw said. “I am proud of this group.”

The Badgers (9-3, 6-2 Big Ten) rank eighth in the country in rushing, averaging 283 yards per game on the ground. Running backs Melvin Gordon and James White each finished with more than 1,300 yards on the ground.

“We’ve got to get our run defense pants on, that’s for sure,” Spurrier said. “When you play a team like Wisconsin that can run it and run it and run it, they can stay on the field a long time if you don’t watch it. We will try to gear up to stop the run. Sometimes we have been pretty good at it and sometimes not so good.”

Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen, a former Urban Meyer assistant, was hired away from Utah State last season to replace Bret Bielema as the Badgers head coach.

“I haven’t seen (South Carolina) play much this season at all but from afar tremendous respect,” Andersen said Sunday night. “I know they beat Clemson, they beat UCF, those are two BCS teams. You play the conference they play in, to win 10 games is very special. I think we all strive at the beginning of the year to get to a BCS game, but it is very, very difficult to do.”

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