Just like the Outback Bowl, played at the same time, the Capital One Bowl features a Big Ten/SEC matchup who two more teams that fell short of reaching their conference championship game.
The Gamecocks finished 10-2, losing only to defending national champions Auburn 13-16 and then-No. 6 Arkansas 28-44 to finish second in the SEC East.
Nebraska went 9-3 in its inaugural season in the Big Ten and finished third in the Legends Division behind Michigan State and Michigan.
This meeting will be the first between the two schools since 1987.
The Huskers’ offense is primarily run-based, ranked 13th in the nation in rushing with an average of 223.94 yards per game. RB Rex Burkhead is 20th in the FBS with 1,268 yards and tied for 14th with 15 touchdowns. Taylor Martinez is a run-first QB, rushing for 837 yards and nine scores while passing for 1973 yards, 12 TDs and seven interceptions.
The QB-RB duo accounted for 433 of Nebraska’s 565 carries on the year. Kenny Bell led the team in receiving with 29 catches for 408 yards and two touchdowns. All-America LB Lavonte David and Big Ten’s Defensive Back of the Year Alphonzo Dennard anchor the Cornhusker defense.
David led the team and was 23rd in the FBS in total tackles with 122 while adding 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. Dennard was the leader of a pass defense ranked 18th in the nation with 189.1 ypg and broke up six passes this season. However, Nebraska has had difficulty stopping the run this year allowing 161.58 yards, and has allowed an average of 22.8 points per game.
Head coach Steve Spurrier has never posted a losing record since he became coach at South Carolina in 2005. In his seventh year the Gamecocks have matched the 1984 team for the most wins in their 118-year history, finished the SEC schedule with a school-best 6-2 record and defeated all five of their East Division foes. In October, South Carolina lost their starting quarterback and running back, but were able to plow through the remainder of the year to finish with a respectable three losses.
Frequently-suspended QB Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team and the Gamecocks lost RB Marcus Lattimore suffered a knee injury in the Mississippi State game that would end his season. Sophomore Connor Shaw took over at for Garcia and just like Martinez, has become more of a rushing QB than passing. In nine games, Shaw has thrown for 1218 yards, 12 TDs and six INTS, while adding 483 yards and seven scores on the ground. Freshman RB Brandon Wilds replaced Lattimore, running for over 100 yards in three of South Carolina’s final five games and 486 yards and three TDs.
Wideout Alshon Jeffery led the Gamecocks with 45 catches for 614 yards and seven scores, but his production dropped off when Garcia left the team, and the Gamecocks became a run-first offense. The Gamecocks defense has become one of the best in the nation, holding opponents to 18.8 ppg, good for 13th best in the country. The passing defense is ranked second in the nation with 133 yards, while the run defense is 44th allowing 135.92.
Senior and freshman linemen lead the unit, as Melvin Ingram recorded 13.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks, and Jadeveon Clowney ended his first season with 10 TFL, six sacks, and five forced fumbles.
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Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc