Time for the final installment of Three Keys and Prediction of this season. Three cheers to ringing in 2014 with another 11-win season!
Three Keys to Victory
3. Connor Shaw must throw the ball well and the receivers must play well. Wisconsin has been good against the run this year, even looking moderately good against prolific running teams like Ohio St. This may be a game like Clemson where the run won't be there for portions of the game. Against Clemson, Carolina used QB draws and the wildcat package to counter a good run defense, but against Wisconsin, it may be best to attack Wisconsin's secondary with our speed at receiver. I look for Carolina to test Wisconsin downfield early with a deep balls to Shaq Roland and Bruce Ellington. If Shaw and the receivers execute, it will open things up for our offense.
2. Make Wisconsin pay if we can force them into third-and-long situations. This one relates to the next one. Carolina's defense needs to force Wisconsin to throw the ball. Penn. St. got Wisconsin to throw the ball, and while Joel Stave is a talented QB, he's the lesser of two evils for Carolina. Penn. St. was able to benefit from some errant throws on Stave's part and win the turnover battle. If we can do the same, you have to like our chances. It'll be more likely we'll get that opportunity, though, if we...
1. Gamecocks must contain the run. Wisconsin's offensive strength is its huge offensive line and talented duo of tailbacks. The Badgers average well over six yards per carry on the season. If we allow that, we're in trouble. I would expect that Carolina will stack the box with the spur and one safety in run support in hopes of slowing Wisconsin's running down enough to force it (or at least make it think it has to) throw the ball. If we can do that, we'll still have to handle Stave and Abbrederis, but I like our chances to stop them regularly enough and to force a few errant throws by Stave if we can get Wisconsin into this situation. Our hope is that not only our good run-stopping defensive line but also our improving linebacking corps will be up to the task.
I expect this to be a close game against a team that's top-ten quality if not in actual ranking. However, I like two factors to help Carolina to victory. Connor Shaw will play well in his final game and will connect with a receiving corps that should give Wisconsin's secondary trouble, and our defensive front will continue its late season up-swing and will get enough stops to give Shaw chances to win the game for us. I like Carolina to win 24-21.