By Bill Trocchi
December 30, 2011

Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reason to watch: South Carolina's quarterback of the future will be on display. Sophomore Connor Shaw emerged as a solid, steady starter in the second half of the season -- something the mercurial Stephen Garcia certainly was not. When Garcia was finally dismissed after numerous on-field and off-field issues during his career, Shaw took over and led South Carolina to six wins in seven games, including a 34-13 drubbing of Clemson in which he threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 107 yards and another score. Shaw was missing stud running back Marcus Lattimore for the final five games, giving Gamecocks fans even more hope for the future when both players will be on the field together next season.

Keep an eye on: Rex Burkhead. The Nebraska workhorse spent December healing up after a season in which he carried the ball 261 times, including 38 in a 20-7 win against Iowa in the regular season finale. Burkhead is fully healthy and, like the rest of his teammates, eager to atone for a subpar bowl showing a year ago when the Huskers dozed through a 19-7 Holiday Bowl loss to Washington. The junior will be challenged by an athletic South Carolina defensive line. Nebraska is 11-0 when Burkhead rushes for 100 yards or more over the last three years.

Did you know: Defensive end Melvin Ingram tied for fourth on South Carolina in touchdowns, trailing only Lattimore, Shaw and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Ingram scored twice on fumble returns and once on a 68-yard fake punt against Georgia.

Final analysis: South Carolina has quietly put together an outstanding season, beating all five SEC East foes, earning a school-record tying 10 wins and ranking in the top 15 the final nine weeks of the season. Even without future NFL first-rounder Lattimore in the backfield, the Gamecocks continued to win and now have a chance to cap the season with a quality bowl victory. Nebraska came through its initial Big Ten season in good shape, but may have a tough time matching up with South Carolina. Taylor Martinez has struggled throwing the ball at times, and he will be facing the nation's No. 2 pass defense. If South Carolina can contain Burkhead, it may be a long afternoon for the Huskers.

The pick: South Carolina 27, Nebraska 14

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