Wisconsin had touched down in Orlando and already begun preparations for the bowl game in earnest. As such, it's only right we begin breaking down the contest with the foes from South Carolina in earnest as well.
Each day we'll take a look at a different segment of the game and figure out where the advantages and disadvantages lie for each team.
Up first is perhaps the area that is most crucial to winning the game for both teams, Wisconsin's run game. The Badgers are successful when they run and run well, while South Carolina will be looking to stop the potent 1-2-3 punch of James White, Melvin Gordon and even possibly Corey Clement.
Let's get into breaking it down, shall we?
Before we get into the nitty grity of players and matchups and all of that, let's take a look at where these two teams stand in the ground game.
|School||Yards/Game||Conference Rank||National Rank|
|South Carolina Defense||142.2||2nd||32rd|
Could this be a matchup of the immovable object versus the irresistible force? Having two teams in the top 35 nationally in rushing or rushing defense certainly suggests that.
Wisconsin will have its hands full with the Gamecocks defensive line come January 1st, 2014, that's for sure. Jadeveon Clowney eats up a ton of the attention on the line, but he's just one of the group this season.
Clowney produced just 35 total tackles this season, but 10.5 of those were of the tackle for loss variety. Clearly, he's still the explosive player we have become accustomed to in college football, but the Badgers would be wise to follow the other 12 teams and avoid Clowney like the plague.
It's easier said than done though when you have to also deal with Kelsey Quarles and Chaz Sutton. Quarles, a defensive tackle, outdid Clowney in the TFL department this season—recording 13.5 of those bad boys to go along with 36 total tackles on the year.
Wisconsin's offensive line did it's job well for the most part this season and it showed in the run game most of all. On the season, the Badgers lost just 229 total yards on 514 attempts and part of that was the job the offensive line did in front of them.
Key Matchup: Tyler Marz vs. Jadeveon Clowney
Yes, most teams attempt to scheme away from Clowney and the Badgers are likely to follow suit, but at the same time, Clowney won't be staying in one spot all game long. Marz, a redshirt freshman will be facing easily his biggest test of his career at left tackle and must step up to the challenge or it could be a long day for the running backs and Joel Stave.
Advantage: Wisconsin (just slightly)
This isn't a homer pick, but more so because the Badgers have faced attacking defenses before and had some success in the run game. Just look at the numbers in the Arizona State game for proof of that (231 yards, 7.2 average, 2 touchdowns). Wisconsin needs to have a successful run game or Joel Stave is going to be one sore individual come January 2nd. Gordon has had a chance to deal with his nagging injury and White will be his usual reliable self. The difference between the Badgers and any team the "other USC" has faced this season is no one has the multi-faceted rushing attack the Badgers have. Look for this matchup to be the biggest key to Wisconsin's success in the game.