Capital One Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks
Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, ABC
What's slightly amazing about Wisconsin in 2013 is how close they came to being undefeated. Most if not all of us remember the Arizona State loss, with an officiating job so terrible it drew reprimands from the Pac-12 office. The Badgers lost two more games -- at Ohio State and against Penn State -- by a touchdown each. The margin was razor-thin, and yet the voters look at Wisconsin and see a 9-3 team and drop them in at No. 19 in the BCS standings.
Not that South Carolina hasn't earned its No. 9 ranking, particularly if you set aside the embarrassing two-point upset at Tennessee. The Gamecocks beat the SEC East champions (again), defeated two BCS-bound teams in Clemson and UCF and went 6-1 overall against teams bound for the postseason. It's just interesting to look at the way the voters view two teams that really shouldn't be ten spots apart in the BCS rankings.
Vegas, of course, doesn't go by the polls -- and that's why Wisconsin is a very slight favorite in this game. For South Carolina, the Badgers are about as bad a match-up as you can draw. Wisconsin has a power-running game that generated 283 yards a game -- and South Carolina has a defense that is very average against the run on a per-play basis. If Melvin Gordon (181 carries, 1,466 yards, 12 touchdowns) and James White (209 carries, 1,337 yards, 13 touchdowns) get started, it's going to be extraordinarily hard for South Carolina to win this game.
By the same token, the Gamecocks have their own weapons on offense. Connor Shaw is perhaps the SEC player most frequently mentioned as the conference's most underrated player, which makes you wonder how he ends up underrated (or if he really is to begin with). And he has been efficient, going 158-of-259 passing for 2,135 yards, 21 touchdowns and one interception. Put that together with his 511 yards and five touchdowns on 138 rushing attempts, and it's easy to see why he's a fan favorite. Mike Davis, who gained 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns on 194 carries, is also dangerous.
The thing about South Carolina is that it's capable of beating almost anyone in the country in a one-game setting -- but equally capable of losing to almost anyone in the country in a one-game setting. But Wisconsin is such a uniquely bad match-up for the Gamecocks that even their best game might not be enough.
Wisconsin 34, South Carolina 31