Back when Steve Spurrier was hired by South Carolina, it was largely believed that he would turn the Gamecocks into a national power relatively quickly. It hasn't really turned out that way, as South Carolina lost at least five games during each of Spurrier's first six seasons and only finished the season ranked in the Top 25 once. But as the Gamecocks head into the Capital One Bowl against No. 20 Nebraska, they are 10-2 and ranked No. 9 in the BCS.
Spurrier has already led the Gamecocks to their best season since 1983 when they went 10-2 and finished the year as the No. 11 team in the AP poll. He's also done it in a way that is quite a bit different than what he's been known for in the past.
While Spurrier has earned a reputation for being among the more offensive-minded coaches in the game, his 2011 team ranked just 97th in the nation with 177.4 passing yards per game. The Gamecocks did rush for 198.0 yards per game (26th) and score 30.1 points per game (45th), but it was really their defense that stood out.
The defense allowed just 18.8 points per game (13th) and just 268.9 yards per game (4th), while allowing 21 or fewer points in 9 of their final 10 games. That included a 34-13 win over then No. 17-ranked Clemson in their most recent game.
They will face a Nebraska team that has a chance to finish with their best record since 2001. Bo Pelini has won at least nine games in each of his four seasons since taking over for the regrettable Bill Callahan in 2008. Like most of his teams during that time, this year's Cornhuskers (9-3) have relied heavily upon the run.
The Cornhuskers are the 13th best rushing team in the nation, averaging 223.9 yards per game. They have scored 30 rushing touchdowns this season, with running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez leading the way. Burkhead has 1,268 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns , while Martinez has 837 rushing yards and nine touchdowns to go along with his 12 touchdown passes.
This will be just the third time these two teams have met and the first time since 1987. Nebraska has won all three previous meetings.
For all the latest updates on the Capital One Bowl, be sure to follow this StoryStream. For more insight and analysis of the individual teams, check out Nebraska blog Corn Nation and South Carolina blog Garnet and Black Attack.