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Who: Nebraska Cornhuskers vs South Carolina Gamecocks

Where: Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium (Orlando, Florida)

When: Monday, Jan 2nd at 1:00 PM EST

TV: ESPN

 

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 5-3 in Big Ten)

Most Impressive Victory: 24-3 vs Michigan State (Oct 29th)

Worst Loss: 45-17 at Michigan (Nov 19th)

Notable Alumni: Roger Craig, Eric Crouch, Tommie Frazier, Irving Fryar, Rulon Gardner, Mike Rozier, Ndamukong Suh

Finishing 9-3 for Nebraska had to be a little disappointing this year because all three losses came in Big Ten play and kept them two games out of the Big Ten Championship Game despite beating their divisions representative, Michigan State, rather handily. Nebraska went 6-3 this year against bowl teams and 2-2 against Top 25 teams.

In Nebraska's three losses they gave up 200+ yards rushing in each game for an average of 225 yards per game. They also gave up 12 rushing TDs in those three losses- that's 4 per game for you mathematically impaired readers. That type of run defense is a concern especially when they are going up against a South Carolina team that likes to run the football.

On offense, the Cornhuskers will run the ball nearly two thirds of the time. Junior Rex Burkhead is the workhorse as he gained 1268 yards on the year and 15 TDs. Interestingly enough, he was held under 100 yards in all three of their losses. Another interesting note is that Burkhead scored a rushing TD in every game this year except Michigan. So if there is a prop bet in Vegas, bet on Burkhead reaching the end zone. As Burkhead goes, so go the Cornhuskers. If the Gamecocks can stop him it will be a long day for Nebraska.

 

South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2 in SEC)

Most Impressive Victory: 34-13 vs Clemson (Nov 26th)

Worst Loss: 44-28 at Arkansas (Nov 5th)

Notable Alumni: John Abraham, Leeza Gibbons, Dan Reeves, George Rogers, Sterling Sharpe

People talk about the easy schedule that the SEC East Champion Georgia Bulldogs had but it is interesting to note that South Carolina only played two teams that were ranked in the Top 25 (at the time the game was played). The Gamecocks went 1-1 in those two games as they fell to Arkansas and destroyed rival Clemson.

South Carolina was an intriguing team this year because they had so much talent on defense, one of the best RBs in the Nation (who would get hurt mid-way through the year) and a controversial QB in Stephen Garcia. On defense, the Gamecocks are loaded with talent. Antonio Allen, Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore, Jadeveon Clowney, Shaq Wilson, Devin Taylor, etc. With all that talent it took a while for it to come together on the field. South Carolina gave up only 268 yards per game on the year but in four of the first five games they gave up over 330 in each game. In the last seven games, they only gave up 300 yards once (Arkansas) and held a very good offensive team in Clemson to just 153 total yards.

In the first six games of the season (with Marcus Lattimore) the Gamecocks ran the ball 40 times per game. After the Lattimore injury, the Gamecocks ran the ball 45.6 times per game. One of the big reasons for that was the switch to Connor Shaw at QB. After a fantastic debut against Kentucky (4 TD vs 0 INT) it took Shaw a couple of games to get rolling. It was really the last three games (Florida, Citadel, Clemson) where Shaw emerged as a dual threat QB. He ran for an average of 95 yards in those games with 4 rushing TDs and more importantly he threw for over 200 yards in each of his last two games (with 6 TD vs 1 INT). This game will go a long way to telling us if Connor Shaw has arrived.

 

THE PICKS:

Kevin: Despite the lack of Marcus Lattimore, Nebraska will struggle to stop South Carolina in this game. The Gamecocks won't be explosive offensively but they will be methodical and will put together some long drives that will break the back of the Nebraska defense (South Carolina is 25th in time of possession this year, the Cornhuskers are 101st). Don't watch this game for beauty, watch it for Taylor Martinez as he runs for his life from Jadeveon Clowney.

South Carolina 21 Nebraska 17


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