No. 9 South Carolina will take on No. 20 Nebraska Monday afternoon in the Capital One Bowl with kickoff slated for 1:00 p.m. This article takes a look at what the Gamecocks must do well to ensure victory.
South Carolina running back Kenny Miles was quiet all season long until the Clemson game, the final game of the regular season. He rushed 21 times for 71 yards against the Tigers.
1. Contain Martinez – It’s no secret quarterback Taylor Martinez is the key player on the Nebraska offense. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder has accounted for almost 3,000 total yards and 21 touchdowns this season and is capable of hurting the Gamecocks with his feet and his arm. South Carolina assistant coach Lorenzo Ward was recently given the keys to the defense and must come up with a game plan that prevents Martinez from getting in a rhythm on offense.
2. Win the battle up front – This Cornhusker team has struggled up front on offense at times this season and the South Carolina defensive line will be one of the best they’ve faced. The Gamecocks are built more to get after the passer but have held up pretty well against the run as well. Brad Lawing’s group needs to turn in one of their strongest performances of the year and take advantage of the weakness of the Nebraska offensive line.
3. Establish the run – South Carolina is clearly better on offense when they are having success running the football, and they are coming off a game against Clemson where they racked up over 200 yards on the ground. They did it with the zone read as their base play and quarterback Connor Shaw is at his best in the shotgun. Brandon Wilds and Kenny Miles each ran the ball well down the stretch of the regular season and both will be counted on in this contest as well.
4. Protect the football – In last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Gamecocks turned the ball over five times and continuously put the defense in bad situations. The defense eventually caved and gave up the game-winning drive late in the game. They can’t afford a repeat this time around, so Shaw must make good decisions on when and where to throw it and the ball carriers must do a good job of protecting the ball.
5. Manage the game – South Carolina will be down two full-time coaches in this game, and they didn’t handle things very well two years ago in the Papa Johns Bowl when they were also understaffed. Ward will be in charge of the defense for the first time as a Gamecock coach and the running backs and the linebackers will be coached by committee. How the coaching staff handles this obstacle over the course of the game will go a long way towards determining whether they leave Orlando with a win.
Final analysis – Given how poorly South Carolina has performed in four of the five bowl games under Steve Spurrier, it’s hard to feel overly optimistic about things being different this time around. However, I’m going to predict the overall mindset of this team combined with having a focused quarterback at the helm will lead to a much better Gamecock team taking the field on Monday afternoon, and they will escape with a hard-fought win.
Prediction – South Carolina 27 Nebraska 24
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