Anthem Roundtable: Nebraska

In this season's final edition of the Anthem Roundtable, the crew previews the Nebraska game.

Today's roundtable features Publisher Wes Mitchell and guest bloggers Leftover Hot Dog and Life of a Gamecock.

Please make sure you click their names and frequent their blogs too - you won't be disappointed.

Let's get down to it...



South Carolina hasn't played extremely well in bowl games recently. What, if anything, makes this year different?


MITCHELL: While the chance to win more games than any other South Carolina team seems appealing to this team, I think it goes even deeper than that with this group of leaders. This has been a special group that has managed to win a lot of close games. I look for them to lay it all on the line to send seniors like Melvin Ingram, Travian Robertson, Kyle Nunn, Rok Watkins, Antonio Allen, Terrence Campbell, etc. out as winners. I also expect the defense to be inspired to play for their new defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward.

LOHD: The chance to obtain 11 wins for the football program has the team heavily motivated to enter this game focused. These young men were sold by Coach Spurrier to come to USC and accomplish things never been done and be part of history. A victory will give South Carolina 11 wins in a season for the first time since it began playing football in 1892. They probably will finish in the nation's top 10 for the first time if they win. Playing for those type things is what makes this game much different than in years' past.

LIFE: I think what makes this team different is that this team is together as one instead of individual pieces. There are no troublemakers on the squad. Everyone is here for a specific reason and that is to get win number 11. I also think Connor Shaw at quarterback will be a difference this year than the past three years. He's a calming presence that will be able to rely on his feet and his stable of running backs to help carry the load.


Lorenzo Ward makes his debut as full-time defensive coordinator – what do you want to see from his unit?


MITCHELL: Overall, I expect to see an inspired group out there. The schemes probably won't change a whole lot overall, though I'm sure any new defensive coordinator is likely anxious to implement his own flavor into the package. Ward's players seem to love him and that should carry over on to the field.

LOHD: Physical play. The scheme, the talent and the play calls will not change much but what Coach Ward must do is get his boys to play hard and leave it all on the field.

LIFE: I honestly would like to see the exact same defense the past eight or nine weeks that we've grown accustomed to this season. There's no reason to change philosophies or game plan. Don't break what isn't broken and I think that's a big reason Ward ended up with the job as full-time defensive coordinator. It'll be a tough task to stop the strong running game from Nebraska but as long as they can contain those guys and get some pressure on Taylor Martinez then I think USC has a good chance and Ward has a successful debut.


Taylor Martinez might be the best playmaker at the quarterback position that South Carolina faces this year. What would be considered a positive day for the Gamecock defense against Martinez?


MITCHELL: South Carolina needs to do its best to legally hit Martinez every chance it can. The Gamecocks also need to play well on first and second downs and get Martinez and the Nebraska offense into passing situations on third down. If they force them to pass when they don't want to then it should be a positive day for the Gamecocks.

LOHD: Without a doubt, Taylor Martinez is the Nebraska offense and limiting his effectiveness is job number one for the Gamecocks defense. To do that, they must create good push upfront from the defensive line and the USC linebacking corp has to be on their toes for the run or pass. Martinez did not get to almost 3,000 total yards and 21 touchdowns this season by luck. USC cannot over pursue or sell out on the run as he can connect through the air, even if infrequent. If the Gamecocks can limit him to fewer than 125 passing yards and under 80 yards rushing, that would be the type numbers that most likely correlate to a USC win.

LIFE: A positive day for the Gamecocks would be to hold Martinez's rushing totals somewhere under 50 yards. You can't allow him to get comfortable running with the football because he'll draw in the defense and hit them with a pass over the top when the defense isn't ready. I feel that USC can control the run game against Nebraska and that will limit the passing game for the Cornhuskers. It all starts with Taylor Martinez and he'll be the main focus for South Carolina.


One of the major positives always mentioned with bowl games is that it gives younger players extra development time. Who's a guy that maybe didn't have a huge season that could play a major part in Monday's game?


MITCHELL: I think Damiere Byrd is the best answer here. But I'll throw out a wild card and say Jadeveon Clowney. He obviously played a lot of snaps this year but could be ready to explode into next season with a big final game of his freshman campaign.

LOHD: Two Gamecocks stand out to me when thinking of who could play a major role in the upcoming game and that is Damiere Byrd and Kenny Miles. Byrd has the elusiveness to create trouble for the Cornhuskers secondary due to his height and speed. Nebraska will focus on blanketing Alshon Jeffery so a number two receiving threat has to step up and the likely suspect is Damiere Byrd. The other guy, Kenny Miles, has a chance to shine as he gets the starting nod against Nebraska. Not a young guy but he did not get a lot of reps playing behind Marcus Lattimore and Brandon Wilds this past season. He has the chance to be a difference maker and his hard running style might just be what the doctor ordered against a stiff Nebraska defense.

LIFE: It may finally be time for the Byrd man. Damiere Byrd was expected to be a big part of this offense from Day One but after a four-game suspension he was unable to put his stamp on the offense. The extra practice time during bowl preparations should have Byrd more involved in the offense and on special teams. Don't be surprised to see Byrd catch a few more passes, run a few more reverses, and be involved on kick returns in the bowl game.


What's the single biggest key to victory for South Carolina?


MITCHELL: Solid tackling. It's been over a month since each team's last game and that can lead to sloppy tackling especially for teams that don't have particularly physical practices. Martinez and Rex Burkhead can make even the best tacklers look bad. The Gamecocks are going to have to come out and tackle well early.

LOHD: There has been a lot of talk concerning the run game on offense and defense for USC being critical and rightfully so but one area that is a big key is special teams play. For the Gamecocks, it cannot be the Achilles heel and provide Nebraska any momentum swings during the game. Nebraska is good in their special teams return game so South Carolina must have proper pursuit angles and tackle. The Gamecocks must play mistake free and in what could be a close game, the special teams does not need to be a reason for Coach Spurrier to throw a visor.

LIFE: The bane of USC's existence in the past three bowl games have been turnovers. It's limited USC's offensive opportunities and in turn put them Gamecocks in some deep holes. I think the biggest key to victory would be to win the turnover margin on Monday against Nebraska. You can't have four turnovers in a half if you expect to win. Limit those turnovers and USC should be in position to pull out a victory.


PREDICTION?


MITCHELL: I believe South Carolina is the better team and that the Gamecocks played better down the stretch. Still, they haven't played well in bowl games. This should be a close one with South Carolina ultimately winning 31-24.

LOHD: This game will be one of the season's best bowl games and USC will defeat Nebraska by the score of 27-20. It will be a battle but look for the Gamecocks to make the right second half adjustments to usher in that lustrous 11th win.

LIFE: My prediction for the Capital One Bowl is that USC wins 27-17. I think the Gamecocks use a strong ground game behind Miles, Wilds, and Shaw to the tune of over 225 yards rushing and control the game from the beginning. Nebraska will keep it close but a few defensive stops late in the game give USC a much needed bowl victory and that elusive 11th win.


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