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NCAA Football South Carolina GamecocksWisconsin Badgers

2014 Capital One Bowl: Can South Carolina Stop Wisconsin’s Run Game?

Wisconsin running back James White

Wisconsin running back James White stiff arming Nebraska cornerback Andrew Green in 2012 Big Ten Championship game

Two Big Ten teams are playing in BCS bowl games this season. Michigan State will matchup against Stanford in the Rose Bowl, and Ohio State will face the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. The South Carolina Gamecocks‘ next opponent is a 9-3 Wisconsin team that lost to the same Ohio State team that’s going to play Clemson (a team that South Carolina beat by two touchdowns)  in the 2014 Orange Bowl.

When you break it down like this, it would appear as if the Gamecocks are the team that’s favored to win the 2014 Capital One Bowl game versus the Badgers, but has that ever meant anything when bowl season came around before? For the most part, South Carolina’s defense has been pretty respectable on the year. It held a potent Missouri Tigers‘ offense to 404 total yards (nearly 100 yards less than its season average) earlier this season, and very seldom does it gives up a big play. However, can it slow down the straight-ahead run game of the Wisconsin Badgers?

Wisconsin’s top four rushers alone have gained 3,437 yards on just 462 carries this season, averaging 7.44 yards per attempt. To put that in perspective, the team as a whole has averaged just 7.43 yards per pass attempt on the year. This goes to show that the Wisconsin run game is very hard to stop, and once defenses commit extra bodies to the line of scrimmage, sophomore quarterback Joel Stave has proven all year that he has the ability to hurt defenses with his arm. Take the Ohio State game for example, as Stave torched the Buckeyes’ defense with 295 yards and two touchdowns through the air. The Buckeyes eventually won that game, but it was largely due to the fact that there was less production out of Wisconsin’s backfield. The same was the case when the Badgers matched up against Penn State, which also resulted in a loss. However, let’s look at the flip-side.

In South Carolina’s two losses (at Georgia, and home versus Tennessee) the Gamecocks gave up 373 total yards on the ground, allowing its opponents to rush for an average of 186.5 yards in those contests. Will the Gamecocks be able to have better results versus a Wisconsin team that averages 283 rushing yards per game? And if the Badgers are able to control the tempo of the ball game by running the football with success, can South Carolina find some rhythm or consistency on the offensive side of the ball? This game will be fun to watch, and I’ll bet that if the Badgers gain over 200 rushing yards in this contest, they’ll come away with a victory.

Although legendary head coach Woody Hayes is no longer around, a lot of offenses have adapted their game plan around his “three yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy where as long as your offense gains around three yards per carry, and it has four chances to move the ball 10 yards to gain a first down and advance the chains, it would run the football the majority of the time. Although the Badgers won’t run the football on every play, their offense has averaged 6.6 yards per carry on the year. If this is the case in the 2014 Capitol One Bowl, the Gamecocks could very well find themselves in a heap of trouble.