The NFL might be beckoning sooner than later, Wisconsin sophomore running back Melvin Gordon is focusing on Capital One Bowl opponent South Carolina and star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
No. 19 Wisconsin (9-3) will face No. 8 South Carolina (10-2) in the Jan. 1 game in Orlando, Fla.
"They're a really good team," said Gordon, who has put NFL thoughts aside until after the game. "Obviously, they've got probably the No. 1 draft pick on their team. They've got some other guys up front that you can't overlook that I think are great as well. We've got it in for us and it's going to be an exciting game."
The speedy Gordon leads the Badgers in rushing with 1,466 yards, averaging 8.1 yards per carry with 12 touchdowns. He teams with senior James White, who has rushed for 1,337 yards and 13 touchdowns. White also is the team's second leading receiver with 37 catches for 292 yards, and Gordon has one catch for 5 yards. Both Gordon and White were second-team All-Big Ten selections.
"I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better duo in the country," Wisconsin running backs coach Thomas Hammock said. "Week in and week out, they do it consistently. I'm looking forward to having one more game with those guys."
Gordon expects a stiff challenge from the Gamecocks' defense, which also includes tackle Kelcy Quarles.
"It's big to come out and establish the run," Gordon said. "We've got to establish the tempo. We've got to come out swinging. We can't get behind the chains against these guys. They're a really good team. They're not ranked No. 9 in the nation for no reason. There's a reason they're playing in this bowl, just like us. We've just got to attack them. Running the ball is what we do. I'm sure those defensive linemen are hungry to get out here and prove that they can stop us."
Led by Clowney and Quarles, the Gamecocks allowed an average of 142.2 yards on the ground.
"They're a really well-coached football team," Hammock said. "They have a really good defensive front four. It's going to be a big challenge for us ... and Clowney, deservedly so, should get credit because he's a really good player."
The Badgers closed the regular season with their worst performance, a 31-24 loss at home to Penn State, which knocked them out of consideration for a BCS bowl game.
"It's really important, especially with us not going out the way we wanted to do on Senior Day," Gordon said. "It's important for us to go out and get this bowl game win, just for our seniors, for James (White). I've been to some Rose Bowls now and it didn't turn out. After, guys were upset and sad. I really don't want this class to go out like that, especially if I've got something to do with it."
The Badgers averaged 283 yards per game rushing, but had trouble moving the ball on the ground in losses to Arizona State, Ohio State and Penn State. Wisconsin rushed for 104 yards on 27 carries against Ohio State and 120 yards on 30 carries against Penn State.
Gordon has stated that he would seek a grade from the NFL advisory board, but first-year Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen previously has stated that he thinks Gordon would benefit by returning for another year.
"I just kind of put that on hold right now," Gordon said. "I just don't really want to talk about it. I'm just trying to focus on this game. It's really frustrating at times, so I just want to be focused. We've got a big game coming up."