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January 2, 2012

South Carolina keys to victory and HOL staff predictions

ORLANDO, Fla. - Nebraska will go for their 10th win of the season today in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina.

As things get closer to kickoff, here are today's keys to victory over the Gamecocks, along with our staff and guest predictions on this game and the other Jan. 2 bowl games featuring Big Ten teams.

The Huskers enter today's match-up as a 2 points underdog against South Carolina.

Establish Burkhead early

If Nebraska wants to win this game one of the biggest things they have to do is get running back Rex Burkhead going early.

South Carolina is going to sell out to slow down NU's running attack and it will be important for the Huskers to find ways to still run the football in these situations.

Burkhead needs to be able to get his consistent 4 to 6 yards per carry in order for Tim Beck's offense to operate properly.

Keep South Carolina off-balanced

The Gamecocks are going to attack NU with great speed and athletic ability on defense. It's the type of speed and athletic ability that has given nearly every Big Ten team fits in bowls the last few seasons.

It will be important for Beck to find ways to keep South Carolina guessing with a mixture of the option and zone read game, along with early play action passes. I expect the Gamecocks to load up eight or even nine men in the box to dare quarterback Taylor Martinez to throw the football down the field on them.

Containment on Connor Shaw

I don't think the Huskers are worried about Gamecock quarterback Connor Shaw's throwing ability. It's more Shaw's ability to create and make plays happen with his feet when nothing is open downfield.

Shaw is one of the first dual-threat quarterbacks Steve Spurrier has ever coached. Spurrier said on Sunday that he's now realized that dual-threat QB's are the future in college football and Shaw's ability to run played a big factor in their play down the stretch.

Win special teams

Special teams is the one area where Nebraska has a big advantage over South Carolina. The Huskers boast arguably the best all-around kicking game in the country with Brett Maher and they have a real return threat in Ameer Abdullah.

If Maher can help NU control field position and Abdullah can break a few nice returns it will go a long way in helping the Huskers win this game.

Create opportunities

Nebraska's defense needs to come up with a few big plays in this game. Whether that's an interception or forced fumble, anything like that will help NU's defense get going early.

I also think it's important that Beck comes out aggressive with his play calling. Beck can't wait for things to happen today, he needs to find ways to make them happen.

Callahan's weekly predictions

I really went back and forth on this pick. I think either team can win, but I feel like other than last year Bo Pelini's track record in bowl games speaks for itself. Pelini is 6-2 overall in college bowl games, where South Carolina is 1-4 over their last five. I'll take the Huskers to win a tight one.

Nebraska 23 South Carolina 20
Wisconsin 37 Oregon 31
Georgia 27 Michigan State 23
Ohio State 23 Florida 17
Penn State 34 Houston 27

Season Record: 21-15 overall; 18-18 vs. points

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