Sports

Spiller, Cobb make for explosive matchup

Scoring 20 touchdowns on the season, Clemson's C.J. Spiller was a threat to take it to the house from a variety of positions.

Scoring 15 touchdowns on the season, Kentucky's Randall Cobb was a threat to take it to the house from a variety of positions.

The Clemson-Kentucky matchup in the Dec. 27 Music City Bowl in Nashville could come down to a matchup between Clemson's Mr. Do-Everything, Spiller, and Kentucky's Mr. Do-Everything, Cobb.

"I do think they are similar in the fact that they are at ease in any phase of the game," said Todd Ellis, the former South Carolina quarterback who is now the radio voice of the Gamecocks.

Ellis saw South Carolina play both teams this season. The Gamecocks beat Kentucky 28-26 on Oct. 10. They beat Clemson 34-17 on Nov. 28.

Spiller gained just 18 yards rushing on the Carolina defense but returned a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.

Cobb gained 89 yards on 13 carries against South Carolina, and caught two passes for 62 yards.

"In the return game, obviously on offense, at almost every position, catching the football, running it, both of them look completely comfortable," Ellis said. "Few players I've seen in the last decade look as comfortable in those roles as Cobb and Spiller do."

They are even similar in size. Cobb is a 5-foot-11, 188-pound sophomore from Alcoa, Tenn. Spiller is a 5-11, 195-pound senior from Lake Butler, Florida.

"I think Cobb is more bruising and a little more durable," Ellis said, "but I think there's no one that I've seen that is as explosive as C.J. Spiller."

Atlantic Coast Conference champ Georgia Tech might say the same after Spiller scored four touchdowns on the Jackets in the ACC title game, bringing his career total to 50. This year alone, Spiller had 11 touchdowns rushing, four receiving, four on kickoff returns, one on a punt return. He even threw for a touchdown.

Fact: Spiller was the only player in college football to score at least one touchdown in every game this season.

"His 60-plus-yard touchdowns is one of the most amazing stats I've seen in a long, long time," Ellis said.

Stat: This season, Spiller had eight touchdowns of 58-or-more yards.

Despite a bothersome toe injury, Spiller wound up sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the first ACC player to finish that high since Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke won the award in 2000.

"But for the toe injury," Ellis said, "he probably is in the top three in the country for the Heisman."

Cobb has two more years to crack the ceremony. He finished the season with 10 rushing touchdowns, four receiving and one on a punt return. He finished the year 15th nationally in punt returns, averaging 13.5 yards per return, 26th in all-purpose yards and tied for 28th in scoring.

"He's a little bit more of a threat out of the true Wildcat formation, to be able to throw the football," Ellis said of Cobb. "But they try to sneak him around, put him in the backfield and throw to him out of the backfield, direct snap to him. He's an incredible player."

In fact, Ellis said that if Cobb, as the holder on field goals, had not inadvertently tipped off the Gamecocks in that game, there might have been a different outcome.

"Kentucky probably gets its first win over South Carolina in over a decade if, on the fake field goal — and it was the only mistake he made — it was the only time he left his gloves on," Ellis said. "The sideline guys picked it up. They probably beat us if they picked up that fake field goal."

The Gamecocks had to hold on that day at Williams-Brice to get the win over the Cats. They had a much easier time with their in-state rivals.

"I think we played one of our best games of the season," Ellis said. "I'm not a big proponent of open dates, I don't think Coach (Steve) Spurrier is either, but I think one late in the season, we were rested, we were more energetic. We finally brought more energy to the game."

Just as Spiller and Cobb can be expected to bring plenty of energy to Nashville.

"They are both incredible players," Ellis said.

When: 8:30 p.m. EST Sunday | Where: LP Field in Nashville (Capacity 68,798)

TV: ESPN | Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1

Records: Kentucky (7-5 overall, 3-5 Southeastern Conference); Clemson (8-5 overall, 6-2 Atlantic Coast Conference)

Series: Kentucky leads 8-4

Last meeting: UK won 28-20 on Dec. 29, 2006, in Music City Bowl in Nashville

All-time bowl records: Kentucky (8-5); Clemson (15-16)

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