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Although South Carolina and Wisconsin meet on the football field for the first time in the Capital One Bowl, there will be some things the Badgers will do on both sides of the ball that will be very familiar to the Gamecocks.
What I remember about Wisconsin football in the 1960s is that it was bad. I went back and looked: It was very bad. After an 8-2 record in '62, the Badgers did not have another winning season until '74, including 0-10 in '68. There was another six-year drought, and for the next two decades it was an up-and-down - mostly down - program.
The change began in 1990 when coach Barry Alvarez was hired by Wisconsin WU administration, who didn't flinch when their new coach's first three teams went 1-10, 5-6, 5-6. Their faith was rewarded by a 10-1 '93 season, which included a Rose Bowl victory over UCLA.
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The Badgers would suffer just two more losing seasons over the 16-year career of Coach Alvarez, and included an 11-1 record in '98, and a 10-2 mark in '99, with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford.
When Coach Alvarez stepped down from coaching and remained as athletics director after the 2005 season, his hand-picked successor was Bret Bielema, who promptly led the Badgers to a 12-1 season in '06. Wisconsin had a winning record in each of Coach Bielema's seven seasons, including 11-win campaigns in '10 and '11.
That's where the familiarity comes in.
Coach Bielema left Wisconsin to accept the Arkansas job this past season, and while he brought Jim Chaney and Sam Pittman from Tennessee as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach respectively, the offensive philosophy remained Bielema's. Chris Ash was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin the three previous seasons, so the defensive philosophy remained the same, so the Gamecocks can expect to see a lot of what the Razorbacks threw at them.
As much as they would like to have you believe they have a balanced offensive attack (3,396 rushing, 2,445 passing), make no mistake about it, the Badgers run the ball to set up the passing game. With a pair 1,000-yard rushers,Melvin Gordon (1,466) and James White (1,337), there will be no surprises as to how they will attack the Gamecocks defense.
The defense is rugged, allowing opponents an average of 101 yards rushing and 193 yards passing. Chris Borland is an outstanding linebacker with 105 total tackles on the season.
Without lengthy evaluations, this will be an excellent match-up.
The keys to victory for the Gamecocks will be what they have been the last two years against Midwestern teams, Nebraska and Michigan. Can USC's defensive speed contain and wear down Wisconsin's bruising ground game? Can Connor Shaw and company put points on the board and control time of possession?
The Gamecocks have been extremely focused for the last two bowl games, and I expect them to be prepared and ready to play at a high level for this one. If they do, they win.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!