Primetime College Football: Papajohns.com Bowl
The 4th annual Papajohns.com Bowl will see the Connecticut Huskies of the Big East, who are making their fourth ever bowl game, take on the SEC South Carolina Gamecocks in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Gamecocks stormed out of the gates this season with five wins in their first six games, including four in a row. However, the team eventually hit the tough part of its SEC schedule and suffered losses in four of its next five matchups. This will be the second straight bowl game for South Carolina and the 15th overall in school history. Unfortunately the Gamecocks have not enjoyed much success, posting a mere 4-10 mark in those contests.
Steve Spurrier Gamecocks averaged just 21 ppg and are turning out 125.0 ypg on the ground on 3.7 yards per attempt. Leading the ground attack is Kenny Miles, but he has rushed for just 602 yards and one score, while Brian Maddox has contributed 305 yards and a team-best 5 rushing touchdowns. Stephen Garcia has 2,733 yards and 17 scores against 9 interceptions with his only top receiver being Alshon Jeffery who has 43 receptions for 735 yards and 6 touchdowns.
The reason South Carolina was so competitive this season is mainly due to the play of the defense, which held the opposition to just 20 ppg. The Gamecocks allowed just 137.0 ypg on the ground on a mere 3.8 yards per carry, and against the pass the team was even better, limiting opponents to just 167.7 ypg through the air. The defense is lead by ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member Eric Norwood who has 71 tackles and 11.5 that where for a loss as well as having 7 sacks on the season. His sack and tackle for a loss totals pushed him to become the all-time leader for South Carolina in both categories. Cliff Matthews collected 7 sacks as well while Shaq Wilson led the squad with 78 tackles.
The Huskies are not as seasoned when its comes to playing in the postseason, participating in just three bowls prior to this year’s contest. UConn is however, 2-1 in those games, and that includes a 38-20 victory over Buffalo in last year’s International Bowl. This year the Huskies had to overcome tragedy along with a grueling Big East schedule. The Huskies began the season with four wins in their first six games however, after that win the Huskies endured a tremendous loss when cornerback Jasper Howard was killed on campus. UConn stumbled through three straight losses but fortunately UConn won its last three contests.
The Huskies rumble into this contest averaging a stout 32 ppg, and the success is largely due to the team’s performance on the ground, as UConn is churning out 172.8 ypg. Out of the 44 touchdowns scored by this unit, 29 have come via the run. Jordan Todman and Andre Dixon formed a dangerous duo for the Huskies, as Todman amassed 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Dixon rumbled for 967 yards and 13 scores. The ground game overshadowed the team’s lack of success through the air, as UConn struggled to find consistency with its passing attack. Zach Frazer played in seven games this season and was nothing more than mediocre, completing just 54.3 percent of his throws for 1,354 yards. Frazer threw 9 touchdowns on the season but also tossed 9 interceptions. Marcus Easley was clearly the top target on the roster, finishing with 44 receptions, for 853 yards and eight TDs.
The play of the offense lightened the load for UConn’s defense that was inconsistent at times this year. The Huskies are allowing 25 ppg, surrendering 137.6 ypg on the ground and 244.8 ypg through the air as well as 17 touchdowns against this secondary. Lawrence Wilson was one of the top performers for this defense throughout the season with 136 tackles and 10 TFLs and Lindsey Witten had 13 TFLs and 11.5 sacks.
This will be the first-ever meeting between South Carolina and Connecticut on the gridiron.
PICK: University of Connecticut Huskies