Know Your Foe: South Carolina

Playing its first SEC opponent since 2008 and its fourth straight January bowl game, No.19 Wisconsin faces a talented eighth-ranked South Carolina squad in Wednesday's Capital One Bowl. Badger Nation gets the inside scoop on this week's opponent from GamecockPride beat writer Rob Veno.

1) Conor Shaw's numbers are outstanding for South Carolina, but where he is the most dangerous and hurt more teams – inside the pocket or outside the pocket?

Veno: Shaw has been terrific this season in each of those aspects and in all honesty he's probably equally as dangerous in the pocket or outside of it. The major difference is how he hurts teams in those situations. He's a legitimate dual-threat quarterback who makes more explosive passing plays inside of the pocket but his running ability has provided big plays outside of the pocket.

2) Tailback Mike Davis isn't a name a lot of people know, but his numbers suggest that they should. How does Davis fit into South Carolina's offense and how dangerous is he?

Veno: Davis is a lot like Shaw in the fact that he's a dual-threat offensive weapon. As a runner he's an extremely tough back who can run hard between the tackles and although he's not a true breakaway guy, he's got above average quickness and burst. He's critical to balancing the South Carolina offense and his receiving skills make him an important factor in the Gamecocks passing game.

3) Is losing second-leading receiver Damiere Byrd (knee surgery) a big loss for this offense? Does SC have enough other weapons to cope, or does a certain player need to step up?

Veno: This question is debatable because Byrd is the team's top vertical threat. However, my feeling is that Shaq Roland's downfield ability (over 18 yards per catch) can compensate for Byrd's absence. The real unknown is whether sophomore slot receiver Nick Jones can step in and make the three receiver sets as dangerous as when Byrd is in. He's a burner who has played a lot and has 36 catches in his career thus far. I think he steps up here and the passing game remains as capable as when Byrd is in.

4) Has South Carolina faced a lot of 3-4 defenses in the last few seasons? If so, how did they fair?

Veno: Inside the SEC East, South Carolina has had great success the past three seasons against Georgia's 3-4 system, especially running the football. They rushed for 226 yards in this year's game (6.3 per carry), 230 yards (4.5 pc) in 2012 and 253 (6.2 pc) in 2011. In 2012, Tennessee went to a 3-4 under DC Sal Sunsieri and the Gamecocks threw for 363 yards. Perhaps most impressive under HC Steve Spurrier was 2010 which was the last time they played Alabama. The Tide was ranked No.1 at the time and their 3-4 yielded 264 rushing yards (6.2 pc) to South Carolina. It should be noted that Marcus Lattimore was on that team but the larger point is that in the five games mentioned above, HC Spurrier's team has averaged 36.6 points per game.

5) Clowney has drawn a lot of attention this season – good and bad. His numbers are down, but how has he become a better player this season, if at all? What do you make of the media circus that follows him?

Veno: Jadeveon certainly didn't do himself any favors from a publicity standpoint when he was pulled over for speeding again. Maturity wise, he'll still be questioned by many but on the field there's no denying his influence on games. He has remained the main man on defense and he's recorded 10.5 tackles for loss but his mere presence and ability to take double teams has made others around him better. The attention paid to Clowney has allowed DT Kelcy Quarles to become more of a disruptive this season registering a team high 13.5 tackles for loss while increasing his sack numbers from 4.5 in 2012 to 9.5 this year. This matchup against the powerful Wisconsin offensive line and their run/play action pass philosophy will be closely watched by scouts.

6) Clowney gets a lot of attention, but there are a lot of good players on this defense. Who are the other big playmakers on this defense that can cause problems for offenses?

Veno: As I mentioned above, Quarles has become a defensive force. At 6-4 and 298 pound, he has the tools to play on Sunday. Chaz Sutton and J.T. Surratt are also worthy of note on what is the best front fours in the SEC. True freshman linebacker Skai Moore is a name you'll hear a lot in the future. He's more of a strong-safety-sized player but he started the final four games as the starting weakside linebacker and led the team in tackles this year. He's fast, tough and active. Actually, Wisconsin was in on the recruiting of Moore last year so they should know him a bit. Cornerbacks Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree are a very solid all-around play making type tandem.

7) There's no question Steve Spurrier has turned South Carolina into an SEC power, as a win would give him three straight 11-win seasons. However, South Carolina never played in a BCS bowl game under his watch. What do the Gamecocks have to do to take that next step?

Veno: Stay healthy and stay focused would be the top pair of thoughts that I have. Key personnel losses and slip ups have cost this team some chances at a BCS bid. The SEC schedule always seems to provide one or more difficult road spots so it's never easy.

8) What areas of Wisconsin do you expect will give South Carolina trouble? Where do you think the Gamecocks have the edge over the Badgers?

Veno: If UW QB Joel Stave is on, the play-action passing could give South Carolina trouble. They're very aggressive defensively (even in the secondary) and will have to focus on stopping Wisconsin's running game. There should be some chances for WR Jared Abbrederis but Stave has to connect. Screen passes could also work well here. Defensively, I've been impressed with Wisconsin's front seven and overall discipline this season. The key for them to have success in this game will be to make South Carolina one dimensional by shutting down the run. Without the running of QB Shaw and RB Davis, the Gamecocks are an average offense.

9) What is the one thing South Carolina needs to do well in order to beat Wisconsin?

Veno: They need to be balanced offensively. I'd recommend the ‘ol ball coach to devise a pass-first game plan utilizing their advantages against Wisconsin's secondary and with Shaw on roll out with options. The Gamecocks may be able to neutralize the Badgers run defense if they open things up early. On defense, simply put, make QB Stave beat them. He's been very erratic from what I've seen this year.

10) What's your prediction for the game?

Veno: I think in the end South Carolina has a couple more potential playmakers and are more balanced on each side of the football so I'll give it to them by final score of 27-23.

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