ORLANDO, Fla. — The Capital One Bowl will feature one of college football’s most respected offensive gurus matching wits with one of the sport’s young defensive minds.
Steve Spurrier and No. 10 South Carolina will square off against Bo Pelini and No. 21 Nebraska on Jan. 2 at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando after both teams accepted their bids Sunday.
It will be the first meeting between the schools since 1987 and first-ever postseason matchup. Nebraska holds a 3-0 edge in the all-time series with the closest contest coming in the lone game played in Columbia, S.C., a 27-24 Cornhusker win.
There is also added intrigue with Spurrier and Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne having previously coached against each other in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl in the national championship game.
Nebraska (9-3) comes in having wrapped up its first year in the Big Ten and has a chance to post 10 wins for the third straight season. The Cornhuskers are making their fourth straight bowl appearance, with their last win coming in the 2009 Holiday Bowl over Arizona.
Despite some stumbles that kept them from making a BCS run, Pelini is making his fourth straight bowl appearance as coach. He also added to his defensive reputation with the 18th-best passing defense in the nation.
He said he’s looking forward to matching up with a strong SEC foe. He said he and Spurrier have mutual friends and that he remembers scheming against his offenses when he was defensive coordinator at LSU.
“Any time you go 10-2 in the Southeastern Conference you’ve done something right,” Pelini said. “It’s a good conference. I know they’re a well-coached football team and a talented football team. From what I understand, hearing some things throughout the year, they had a couple injuries as did we.
“They were able to overcome those things and they had a good year. You wouldn’t be in the Capital One Bowl if you weren’t a good football team and didn’t do some things right on the field.”
South Carolina (10-2) is also making its fourth straight bowl appearance, but hasn’t won a bowl game since Houston in the 2006 Liberty Bowl.
Spurrier is calling this a huge game for his team. South Carolina finds itself in the Southeastern Conference’s first bowl pick outside the BCS for the first time since joining the league in 1992. A victory would also give the Gamecocks 11 wins for the first time in more than 100 years of football, and end a disturbing run of three ugly bowl losses.
“I know we haven’t played very well in bowl games the past few years, but each team is different,” Spurrier said.
The Gamecocks won their final three games of the season, including a win over rival Clemson in the regular-season finale despite having senior starting quarterback Stephen Garcia kicked off the team and sophomore all-SEC running back Marcus Lattimore lost for the season with a knee injury.
Spurrier’s team managed to compete in the SEC thanks to a defense that was the No. 2 against the pass, allowing just 133 yards per game. It also had the fourth-ranked overall defense in the country surrendering only 268.9 yards per game.
“We haven’t won bowl game yet since we’ve been here,” senior defensive tackle Travian Robertson said. “We owe it to our fans. We make it to a bowl game every year and they support us.”