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December 31, 2013

Final News and Notes: USC-Wisconsin



ORLANDO - If South Carolina was planning to employ some two-back sets involving a fullback in the Capital One Bowl, they might have to change those plans.

Starting fullback Connor McLaurin, a junior from Raleigh, N.C., "cracked an ankle" during a special teams drill on Monday, sidelining him for the New Year's Day matchup with Wisconsin at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium (1 p.m., ABC).

In his place, walk-on Garrison Gist, a sophomore from Rock Hill, has been elevated to the No. 1 fullback spot. However, considering his lack of experience, how much playing time will he see with the USC offense on Wednesday?

"(McLaurin] was just running the field covering a kickoff yesterday and slipped, cut off the wrong foot and cracked an ankle," Spurrier said Tuesday during a pre-game press conference at an Orlando hotel. "So that was the only casualty. (He was) just running down the field and made a bad cut, slipped. So he's out for the game."

Gist has played so sparingly this season that his bio is not included in USC's bowl media guide.

"We'll still have two backs in there some," Spurrier insisted. "Garrison Gist, a walk-on kid, is now the starting fullback. Brandon Wilds could play some in there also. Gist, he's our man right now. We're trying to straighten him out this morning.

"We were watching the tape of yesterday's practice. He was going the wrong way a couple times. But I think he has played about three snaps against Coastal [Carolina], and that's about all he's played all year. But he'll be the starter tomorrow. I think he's okay in there, in the two-back stuff."

BADGERS EYE KEEPING SHAW BOTTLED UP: Like most of USC's opponents in the past two seasons, Wisconsin hopes to keep Connor Shaw contained in the pocket and not allow him to scramble for first downs as he has done on countless occasions in the past. The quarterback draw was a staple play against Clemson, and the same thing could occur again in the Capital One Bowl if Mike Davis and the USC running backs are stonewalled by the Wisconsin defensive front.

"Hopefully Connor's running ability will be important tomorrow," Spurrier said. "He is a very good runner. He's a very good passer, also. We try to tell him to throw first a lot and then take off running. Lately, he's done very well at that. We have a few designed runs for him, but a lot of his plays have been pure scramble plays, nothing open, take off, make the first down. Connor's certainly a big part of our team, a big part of the offense, and he needs to have a good game tomorrow."

WILL SPURRIER JR. TAKE A LOOK AT DUKE?: Steve Spurrier Jr. told SportsTalk that he is interested in pursuing Duke's vacant offensive coordinator position, and his father indicated on Tuesday that he wouldn't stand in the way if his son wanted to take the job at his alma mater as long as he felt it was a positive move for his career.

"All assistant coaches have got to always be flexible and be open minded and so forth and try to make good decisions," Spurrier said. "I'm reminded (of that) by our assistant coaches. We've hired guys that (took a job) and then (the entire) staff all got fired the next year. . .But if a coach wants to be a head coach, maybe the next step is a coordinator, and then go from there. There's good times to move in coaching and other times, maybe if you've got a good job, hang onto it for quite a while."

Currently, Spurrier Jr. serves as USC's wide receivers coach, recruiting coordinator and passing game coordinator. He has been part of USC's staff since 2005 when his father took the head coaching reins at USC.

GAME PREDICTIONS: Here are the predictions and comments for the USC-Wisconsin game by some nationally prominent writers and/or websites covering SEC football.

Chris Low, ESPN.com Blogger - USC 30, Wisconsin 27. "The Head Ball Coach and the Gamecocks are shooting for their third consecutive 11-win season, but will have to go through a tough Wisconsin team to do it. This has all the makings of being one of the best games of the bowl season. Mike Davis will upstage Wisconsin's two-pronged running attack to give South Carolina its third straight bowl victory."

Edward Aschoff, ESPN.com Blogger - USC 27, Wisconsin 20. "The Badgers own one of the nation's best rushing attacks, while the Gamecocks have one of the country's best defensive lines. We've found out lately just how fast Jadeveon Clowney can be, and he'll have his hands full with Wisconsin's offensive line and running back duo of Melvin Gordon and James White. Something tells me this Gamecocks' line is excited about the challenge."

CollegeFootballNews.com - USC 30, Wisconsin 24. "At the very least, expect a close game. Going back to a 34-24 loss to Michigan State in mid-2010 that was far closer than the final score, the last 13 Badger losses - and 14 of the last 15 going back to mid-October of 2009 - have been by seven points or fewer. The problem is that South Carolina might be a bad matchup for UW with too much balance, a quarterback with too much moxie, and a defense with a superstar looking to become a Houston Texan."

WEATHER FORECAST: The forecast for the 1 p.m. kickoff at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium calls for temperatures around 66 degrees with a 40 percent chance of precipitation. Temperatures will stay in the mid-60s until the end of the game around 4:15 p.m.. although the chance of rain will climb to 60 percent.

SEC BOWL SCHEDULE/RESULTS:
Ole Miss 25, Georgia Tech 17
Mississippi State vs. Rice, Dec. 31, 4 p.m. (Liberty Bowl)
Texas A&M vs. Duke, Dec. 31, 8 p.m. (Chick-fil-A Bowl)
Georgia vs. Nebraska, Jan. 1, noon (Gator Bowl)
LSU vs. Iowa, Jan. 1, 1 p.m. (Outback Bowl)
Alabama vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. (Sugar Bowl)
Missouri vs. Oklahoma State, Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m. (Cotton Bowl)
Vanderbilt vs. Houston, Jan. 4, 1 p.m. (BBVA Compass Bowl)
Auburn vs. Florida State, Jan. 6, 8 p.m. (GoDaddy Bowl)

MISCELLANEOUS:

-- Spurrier said Jadeveon Clowney is 100 percent healthy for the Capital One Bowl and his past foot problems "are gone," so he should be ready to go for his final football game. What will be interesting, Spurrier said, what happens after the game concerning Clowney: "We were all wondering if he's got a limo to take him out of the ballpark tomorrow or not. We were kidding him about all the autographs, the people around there waiting until after the game. Then he could start charging for his autograph, if he waits a little while. He'll be an instant pro when the game's over. But he's looking forward to it and we wish him the best."

-- Spurrier on Florida hiring Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper to fill the spot left open when Brent Pease was fired following the season: "They hired one about 23 years ago, the Duke offensive coordinator. So, they know where to go for a football school. They're finally figuring that out, I think. You've got to go to Duke to get football coaches."

-- USC has now been ranked in the AP Top 25 for 63 consecutive weeks, tying the Gamecocks with Stanford for the fifth-longest streak in the country behind Alabama, LSU, Oregon and Oklahoma.

-- The USC offense has scored on 67-of-135 possessions this season, a scoring percentage of 49.6 percent, with 52 touchdowns and 15 touchdowns. The Gamecocks have been held to three-and-out 28 times, an average of less than three times per game. Since going three-and-out seven times in 14 drives against Mississippi State, USC has been held without a first down just six times in 33 possessions in the last three games against Florida, Coastal Carolina and Clemson.

-- The Capital One Bowl marks the 300th career game for Spurrier as a collegiate head coach. His career record is 218-79-2 in 24 seasons as a college head coach at Duke, Florida and USC.

-- Going into the bowl game, USC has 83 tackles for loss, an average of 6.9 TFL per game, and 24 sacks. In addition, eight players have between 43 and 51 tackles this season, led by true freshman linebacker Skai Moore (51) and senior cornerback Jimmy Legree (47).

-- With a combined 2,803 rushing yards on the season, Wisconsin running backs Gordon and White need a total of 202 yards to break the NCAA single season record for rushing yards by teammates of 3,004 yards set by Nevada in 2012.

-- USC and Wisconsin have virtually identical records from 2009-13 heading into the Capital One Bowl. USC is 48-17 (.738) over the past five seasons, while Wisconsin is 49-17 (.742). USC is 12th nationally in that category with Wisconsin one spot higher in 11th.

-- Wisconsin is one of only two teams in the nation that has rushed for more than 280 yards per game while allowing fewer than 105 rushing yards per game. The badgers have held all 12 of their opponents this season below their rushing averages. USC is averaging 205.2 yards on the ground.



In this very special extended episode of GCTV, Avery Wilks joins Ron Aiken and Alyssa Lang to provide an in-depth look at tomorrow's Capital One Bowl.

DM



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