Gamecocks vs. Badgers: Five Capital One Bowl storylines

nwhite@thestate.comDecember 31, 2013 

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw (14) warms up during practice at Celebration High School in Kissimmee, FL, Saturday, December 28, 2013.

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com

FINAL GAMES

Senior quarterback Connor Shaw and junior defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will play for the final time in a South Carolina uniform in the Capital One Bowl. Junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and junior cornerback Victor Hampton have made it clear that they intend to enter the NFL draft as well. Even junior wide receiver Bruce Ellington appears to be leaning that way. As five of the team’s top players, going out on a winning note would be fitting after all the success they’ve helped generate over the past three seasons.

STOPPING THE RUN

Wisconsin’s ground attack features a pair of running backs — Melvin Gordon and James White — who have gained 1,466 and 1,337 rushing yards, respectively. They will present the stiffest test this season for USC’s young but improving group of linebackers. If the Badgers can take control of time of possession and keep moving the chains, they will keep the USC offense from getting on the field. The USC defense must find a way to slow a team that averages 283 rushing yards per game and 6.6 rushing yards per carry.

SHAW LEFT, SHAW RIGHT

The senior hopes to save his best game for last. Already USC’s all-time winningest quarterback, Shaw can add one more victory to his career total of 26. The Wisconsin coaches have stressed all week that they must contain Shaw, who’s equally adept with his arm and his legs. His ability to scramble and pick up crucial yardage to keep drives alive make him extremely dangerous. And his 21 touchdown passes to one interception are a credit to his accuracy and decision-making when throwing the ball.

KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING

The No. 8 Gamecocks have plenty of motivation to beat the No. 19 Badgers. A victory would give USC its third consecutive 11-win season and top-10 finish in the final rankings. It would continue an unprecedented stretch of success in USC football history and provide a solid jumping-off point to the offseason and the 2014 campaign. Steve Spurrier points with pride to the elevation of the program’s status to one of the best in both the SEC and the nation.

RETURN TO FORM

Sophomore tailback Mike Davis rushed for more than 100 yards in seven of USC’s first nine games. In the past three games, he didn’t play in one and totaled 76 yards in the other two. It will be important for Davis to play like the guy who was almost impossible to stop earlier in the season. In his last trip to Orlando, he gained 167 yards and scored three touchdowns in a win against UCF, which ended up as a BCS bowl team. He’ll need to step it back up against a tough Wisconsin defense.

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