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December 22, 2013

What to watch for: Capital One Bowl





We got a good response from our last roundtable, where we broke down which team will end the Wisconsin men's basketball team's winning streak. So this time we're going to turn our focus back to football, now that we're down to a little over 10 days to go until the Badger football team takes the field for the final time this season.

The Badgers will take on the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks in the 2014 Capital One Bowl. The game is getting press as one of this bowl season's best games, and for good reason: both South Carolina and Wisconsin were in the mix for a spot in a BCS bowl game for most of the season, but were ultimately shut out of their conference title games by another team in their division.

Today the rest of the BadgerBlitz.com staff and I are going to break down what we think is the key matchup in this game. It should be a hotly contested bowl game, and whoever wins on the little margins like these will have a good chance of leaving Orlando with an extra win to their name.

Zack Miller: The obvious matchup to watch is the Wisconsin running backs vs. South Carolina's defensive line with James White and Melvin Gordon going up against Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles.That's the matchup that will get all of the attention, but I'm going to go a different route: Chris Borland vs. Mike Davis. Through 11 games this season, Davis has scored 11 touchdowns and is averaging 5.8 yards per carry and 103.1 rushing yards per game. Borland has shined in games where the opposing team has an explosive rushing attack. Against Carlos Hyde and Ohio State, Borland had 16 tackles; against Taysom Hill and BYU, Borland had 13 tackles; 12 tackles against David Cobb and Minnesota; and 10 tackles against Penn State's Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak. If Borland can help limit Davis' yardage then the game shifts to being about 5-foot-9 Sojourn Shelton shutting down 5-foot-9 Damiere Byrd and 5-foot-9 Bruce Ellington - a size matchup Badgers fans should welcome as Shelton, for as well as he has played, has been undersized in every game so far this season.

Jon McNamara: In Wisconsin's loss to Penn State, the offensive line did a poor job of allowing Joel Stave time in the pocket. That said, I think a huge matchup will be the Badgers' offensive line against South Carolina's defensive line in the Captial One Bowl. And when you have Jadeveon Clowney, all eyes will be on one of the most physically talented players in the country.

"He (Clowney) is one of the best college defensive ends I've ever seen to play the game, without question," UW head coach Gary Andersen. It will be interested to see how tackles Tyler Marz, who struggled mightily against the Nittany Lions, and Rob Havenstein hold up against Clowney, who has three sacks and 35 tackles on the year.

Jon Gorman: In a similar vein, I'm going to go with Joel Stave vs the Gamecocks' defense. Stave was very poor against Penn State, missing a number of throws, and the only time Wisconsin's offense has really struggled this year, is when Stave was unable to punish teams for stacking the box with eight or nine. It doesn't matter who the running back is, if the Badgers see nine in the box all day, it's going to be very hard for them to run the football, which we all know is vital to their success. Gary Andersen has talked about using the pass to open up the run, and I think we're going to see more of that early on as the Badgers try to keep the Gamecocks on their heels defensively.

John Veldhuis: I think the Badgers and the Gamecocks match up pretty well overall, especially when the Badgers will have the ball. But the matchup I'm really going to key in on is Wisconsin's pass defense against South Carolina's passing offense. Connor Shaw has thrown 21 touchdowns to just one interception this year, and after watching Wisconsin's secondary get shredded by Penn State in their regular season finale I think there's a chance they'll struggle against a top-shelf passing attack. South Carolina compares favorably to Arizona State in that their offense gets their big hits through the air, and I think Wisconsin's defensive front will be able to force the Gamecocks to take to the air early and often. The Gamecocks will miss their No. 2 receiver in this game, but the Badgers will need to keep the rest of South Carolina's receivers in check and try to get some pressure on Shaw if they want to separate themselves from the Gamecocks.

For more Wisconsin Badgers news, notes and discussion, follow John on Twitter.



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