Date/Time - Wednesday, January 1 at 12 p.m. CT
Stadium –Florida Citrus Bowl (65,438/FieldTurf)
Television –ABC (Dave Pasch, Brian Griese, Tom Luginbill)
Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)
Series –First Meeting
Last game's Badger Nation coverage
The Badgers are back in the Capital One Bowl for the first time since the 2006 season and look to improve to 3-0 all-time in the game and 4-1 at the Citrus Bowl.
UW's 12-year bowl streak is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and tied for the seventh- longest streak in the country. The Badgers became bowl-eligible for a 12th-consecutive season with their win over Iowa on Nov. 2.
Wisconsin is 2-6 against the SEC in bowl games and 8-9-1 overall against the conference. UW hasn't played an SEC opponent in six years (vs. Tennessee in the Outback Bowl) but will open the next three seasons against LSU in Houston, Alabama in Dallas and LSU in Green Bay.
South Carolina is 4-2 against the Big Ten in bowl games, but 5-9 overall against the conference. South Carolina beat No.19 Michigan, 33-28, in last season's Outback Bowl.
Wisconsin, which ranks No. 18 in total offense (486.8) and No. 6 in total defense (294.0) nationally, is out-gaining its opponents by 192.8 yards per game, the fourth- highest average yardage differential among FBS teams.
Wisconsin ranks No. 5 nationally in opponent third-down conversion percentage at 29.9 percent.
Wisconsin and Ohio State are the only FBS teams to average at least 280 rushing yards per game while allowing fewer than 105 rushing yards on defense.
Wisconsin (3,396/2,445) is one of just 10 FBS teams with 3,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards this season.
South Carolina Notes
The Gamecocks have followed up back-to-back school-record 11-win seasons with another 10-win campaign. Prior to the 2011 season, South Carolina had just one 10-win season in its history, that coming in 1984.
South Carolina lists just five seniors on their roster. That is the fewest number of seniors in Division 1 FBS football in 2013. They will leave as the winningest class in school history with at least 41 wins over the last four seasons.
South Carolina has won 14 straight games against nonconference opponents. It's last nonconference loss came to Florida State in the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl. That streak includes two wins over Big Ten teams.
The Carolina defense held 10 of its 12 opponents below their season scoring average, with six held double-digits below that average. Only Georgia and Kentucky scored more against the Gamecocks than their season average. UW is averaging 35.8 points per game.
South Carolina is averaging 453.4 yards per game of total offense, including 2-5.2 on the ground and 248.2 through the air. The Gamecocks have recorded 5,442 yards of total offense this season and are 57 yards away from setting a new school record for total offense in a season.
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig didn't mince words when asked about the importance of the Badgers' running attack against a talent, athletic, high-ranking foe in South Carolina. Wisconsin, long known as a power running team that likes to mix in the play-action pass, is going to play to its strength on Wednesday.
"I don't think there's any surprise there," said Ludwig. "So the key thing is first-down efficiency, making positive games in the run game and then using the play action to keep the secondary honest and keep the safeties backed off. We've got away from that a little bit here … and we're anxious to get back to it."
The first part of that equation is easy for Wisconsin to execute. The Badgers are averaging 283 yards per game and have two tailbacks averaging over 100 yards per game. The second part of the question is more uncertain.
Sophomore quarterback Joel Stave has started every game this past season for Wisconsin; bringing stability to a position that was rocked with injuries and inconsistencies a season ago, a big reason why Wisconsin's 8-6 record was its worse in four seasons.
The UW media guide has a special section for Stave, and all suggest he's among one of the top quarterbacks in school history.
*Stave has shined in the red zone, completing 63.3 percent of his passes for 246 yards, 15 touchdowns and no interceptions. His pass efficiency rating of 180.3 in the red zone ranks ninth nationally.
*Stave has completed 61.6 percent of his passes this season, which ranks as the sixth-best single-season mark in UW history. Tolzien set the Badgers' single-season record at 72.9 percent in 2010.
*With 26 touchdown passes for his career, Stave ranks eighth all-time at UW and needs seven to pass Tolzien (2008-10) for seventh (32).
*Stave became the 14th Badgers QB to throw for 3,000 yards at UW, surpassing that mark in just 16 career starts.
But what has been a problem all season long for the Badgers is the inability to connect on the open throws, stretch the field and not turn the ball over. In the last six games UW has only three pass plays of 30 yards or more, while Stave has thrown interceptions in four of those games.
"If they're going to stack the box, we've got to make sure to keep them honest and hit a couple bombs over the top," said senior Jared Abbrederis. "So that's obviously something that we missed a couple in the past couple of games and that might change the game. So you've got to make sure whenever you take a shot, you've got to land it and that'll definitely help up. The run game in the past can kind of go hand in hand."
In the loss to Penn State, Stave threw 55 times, compared to only 30 runs for Wisconsin, and threw a career-high three interceptions. Many outside the program have suggested that Stave is playing for his starting job moving forward. Ludwig wouldn't go into Stave's future, but said he's looking for his QB's ability to move the football with repetitive accuracy and resiliency against South Carolina, just like he does against every opponent.
"He's had excellent preparation," Ludwig said of Stave. "He takes football very seriously. He's a hard working young man and I'm really anxious to watch him play this football game. I know he's anxious to play it."
South Carolina's four starters on the defensive line combine for 35.5 tackles for loss and have the best defensive end in college football – when he wants to be – in Jadeveon Clowney. A unit that thrives on putting pressure on opposing offenses and quarterbacks, defensive end Chaz Sutton sees an opportunity to rattle Stave.
"If we can put a lot of pressure on, we can take away a lot of things early in the game and what we notice a lot is he likes to hold the ball," Sutton said of Stave. "He's not a guy that's going to catch the ball and get it out really quick like some teams we've played in the past. He's a guy that likes the roll out, basically one side or whatever. So we've got to have get him pulled up and keep him contained and we've just got to rattle him early."
Non-BCS bowl games are all about which team is more motivated to be there. Wisconsin is motivated for plenty of reasons (Penn State debacle, winless in bowls since the 2009 season, send big senior class out on the right note). While South Carolina might be disappointed missing out on a BCS bowl despite a third-straight 10-win regular season, the Gamecocks have been motivated by Vegas.
Abbrederis had no idea that Wisconsin was pegged as the favorite between the two schools and Chris Borland, despite saying the team is "confident that we're going to win," Sutton was brutally honest about what he thought about his school being 1.5-point underdogs to a school that has one less win and ranked 11 spots lower than the Gamecocks.
"I don't want to sound like a cocky type of guy, but I just kind of take it as a slap in the face," he said. "We as a team collectively, we work hard and we bust our butts at practice every day and listen to what the coaches tell us to do. For us to be the highly-ranked team coming into this game and be labeled as the underdog, we kind of take it as a slap in the face as a team collectively. We know what type of guys we've got coming to this ballpark on Wednesday for playing this game and we just feel like we deserve way much more respect than what we're getting right now."
The Badgers have beaten some great SEC teams in past Capital One Bowl triumphs; teams that were overall better than they were. That's the same case here, but I just don't trust UW to be an effective passing team against South Carolina's talented defense or the Badgers to slow down an offense averaging over 450 yards a game enough to win.
The bowl drought continues for Wisconsin.
South Carolina 28, Wisconsin 24
Straight up: 10-2*
Against the Spread: 9-2-1
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