One has to wonder just how excited Steve Spurrier is to take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers again. When the "Ole Ball Coach" was starting to build his legacy at Florida, his Gators ran into the buzz saw that was Tommie Frazier and the Huskers. Despite being favorites in that game, Spurrier's team was dominated in a way that surely left a lasting impression on him.
But circumstances are quite a bit different this time around. Spurrier has put together possibly his best South Carolina Gamecocks team while the Nebraska Cornhuskers are looking a bit pedestrian. Bo Pelini's Huskers were expected to compete for the Big 10 Championship, but ended up finishing third in their division.
Despite a 9-3 record, Nebraska showed quite a few weaknesses over the course of the season and one flaw in particular should have Cornhusker fans a little nervous. The Gamecocks didn't really take off until Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team and the reigns were handed to sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw. Shaw has added a different look to an offense that struggled to find consistent production.
Since taking over as the starting quarterback, Shaw has thrown for 1,189 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for 443 yards and another seven touchdowns. If you look at the teams who have beaten the Cornhuskers this year (Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern) the obvious common denominator is a quarterback who can beat you with his legs as well as his arms.
In fact, Nebraska's defense has been positively porous whenever they have faced a mobile quarterback. When Nebraska faces off against an offense that features a mobile quarterback, they have surrendered an average of 30.1 points per game. When facing a team that has a pure pocket passer, Pelini's team has allowed just 12 points per game. Connor Shaw could give Nebraska fits.
Offensively for Nebraska, there are a couple of question marks. Taylor Martinez apparently hurt his ankle in the first quarter of Nebraska's final game of the regular season. Last season, when Taylor was hobbled, Nebraska's offense was anemic. Nebraska's other weapon, Rex Burkhead has had a ton of carries (236) for a ton of yards (1,268) and a ton of touchdowns (15).
Martinez, while looking uneven in the passing game has managed to throw for more yards and touchdowns (1,937 and 12) than a year ago while also rushing for about 100 yards more (837 total) than he did a year ago.
Nebraska will rely heavily on their running game, with the question being whether it will be a straight ahead rushing attack or a healed up Martinez that will allow them to run the option.
When the dust settles, Nebraska should have one too many offensive weapons for South Carolina.
Final Score Prediction: Nebraska 30, South Carolina 27
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