In only a few short days, it'll be 2014 and the Gamecocks will take on the Wisconsin Badgers in the Capital One Bowl. Wondering what to be on the lookout for during the game? Here's my take.
The thing I'd most like to see is continued improvement from the linebacking corps. This group has steadily improved over the course of the season, going from getting absolutely razed by the Georgia Bulldogs to putting in some decent performances over the second half of the season. The Gamecocks faced two stout offenses down the stretch in Clemson and Missouri, and in both cases, the linebackers did their part in holding the opposing offense to below its seasonal average. Carolina held Mizzou to 3.8 yards per rush and Clemson to 4.4. The Mizzou result is particularly impressive, as the Tigers averaged 5.68 ypc on the season. Against Clemson, the linebackers deserve credit for creating turnovers, with both T.J. Holloman and Skai Moore picking off Tajh Boyd. Moore, Holloman, and Kaiwan Lewis all look to have bright futures in Columbia. With roster turnover on the defensive line and at cornerback, the linebackers will be looked upon to serve as the centerpiece for the defense next season. We'll have good reason to be even more confident in their ability to do so if they play well against Wisconsin, a team whose power running game will challenge our linebackers' gap discipline and tackling ability.
Another position I'll be paying close attention to is the wide receivers. There are two players in particular I'll have my eyes on. First of all, Shaq Roland has come up with some big plays the past few games and appears to be the go-to receiver now. He's yet, though, to have that big breakout game where he puts it all together and catches for over 100 yards and multiple touchdowns, although questionable incomplete calls on what looked like catches against Florida and Clemson hurt his ability to do so. Perhaps Wisconsin will be the game where he becomes a household name. The other player I'm curious to see is Shamier Jeffery. Jeffery earned the praise of the coaches during the offseason for his dedication to reaching his potential, but with a crowded receiving rotation, he found it difficult to get onto the field. He had five catches in the blowout against Arkansas, but that's all on the year. However, with Damiere Byrd injured for the bowl, Jeffery may get a few more opportunities against Wisconsin. I'd eager to see what he does with them if so, as I'd like to know whether he's likely to become a bigger contributor next year.
The last thing I'm looking for is trick plays. Other than the BCS Championship, bowls, while certainly games teams want to win badly to help their final ranking, are still exhibitions of sorts, and some coaches enjoy giving the fans who traveled to the game a show by emptying their stock of trick plays. I just saw Syracuse attempt a fake field goal against Minnesota in the Texas Bowl, for instance. Spurrier, a coach who is known to enjoy trick plays, has run his fair share in bowls, such as this WR pass for a TD from Ace Sanders to Stephen Garcia in the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
I'm eager to see what the Head Ball Coach has in store for us this year. While not technically a trick play, one thing to watch out for is Pharoh Cooper targeting Connor Shaw downfield out of the wildcat formation. Cooper targeted Shaw on one play against Clemson, and I'm sure Spurrier would love to give Shaw the chance to catch a touchdown pass in his final game as a Gamecock.
What will you be looking for in this game?
- Jadeveon Clowney poses for photo with Orlando police officers
- Kwinton Smith academically ineligible for Capital One Bowl
- Arkansas AD Jeff Long subtweets Steve Spurrier
- South Carolina Basketball: Gamecocks Beat Akron, Finish Third in Diamond Head Classic
- Marcus Lattimore wrote a letter to Gamecock fans to thank them for their support