Michigan Football will take on South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Years Day. Kick off is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be televised on ESPN.
The Gamecocks are ranked 10th in the Coaches Poll and 11th in the AP. They have have a 10-2 record and were 6-2 in the SEC this season. The oddsmakers have them as a 6 point favorite. On defense, South Carolina is led by sophomore All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He leads the country in sacks (13) and ranks second in tackles for loss (21.5). Clowney will be a handful for Michigan’s offensive line.
On offense, the Gamecocks are led by junior QB Connor Shaw who has completed 67.3 percent of his passes for 1,732 yards and 15 touchdowns with just seven interceptions this season. He is third in the SEC and 13th in the country in efficiency rating (156.9). With the season-ending knee injury to Marcus Lattimore, the Gamecocks turn to the duo of Kenny Miles and Mike Davis to tote the pigskin. Miles has carried 99 times this season for 358 yards. Davis, a true freshman, has carried 52 times for 275 yards, 5.3 yards per carry.
There has been some controversy regarding South Carolina’s quarterback situation. Connor Shaw has been the starter, but missed some time due to injury. Most notably in their last game, at Clemson, Shaw did not play and sophomore Dylan Thompson was outstanding as he led USC to a victory. Spurrier has said that Shaw will start against Michigan.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has never faced Michigan.
Michigan enters the game with an 8-4 record and ranked 19th in the AP Poll and 22nd in the Coaches Poll. U-M’s 4 losses have come against teams ranked 1, 2, 3 and 23 in the AP Poll.
How will Michigan use Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson?
For Michigan, the biggest question centers on Denard Robinson and what his role will be in his final in the winged helmet. The senior QB was unable to pass the ball during U-M’s season ending loss at Ohio State. It didn’t take the Buckeyes long to figure that out and whenever he lined up at QB, OSU loaded up the box to stop the run and had no worries about a pass. That strategy might work against a mediocre team, but it won’t against a defense like the Buckeyes or Gamecocks.
I fully expect Robinson to play, but think the QB position will belong to Devin Gardner. He is a true dual threat quarterback and has completed 63% of his passes for 1,005 yards with 8 TDs and 4 interceptions. Gardner has also rushed for 77 yards and 7 touchdowns. With Gardner at the helm and Robinson being mixed in at running back and in the slot, Michigan’s offense can be lethal.
Defensively, the Wolverines rank 10th nationally in total defense, 11th in scoring defense and 2nd in passing defense. Michigan has not allowed a team to pass for over 200 yards in a game this season. The ringleader for U-M is sophomore linebacker Jake Ryan. He leads Michigan in total tackles (84), solo stops (53) and TFLs (14.5). Ryan also tied a school record when he forced his 4th fumble of the season against Ohio State. Michigan’s defense might be the overlooked factor in the Outback Bowl. Much attention has been paid to South Carolina’s outstanding front four and to Michigan’s offense. The loss of starting corner JT Floyd to suspension will hurt, but the Wolverines can overcome that. Expect Courtney Avery to start opposite Raymon Taylor.
Another thing I don’t hear a lot of analyst talking about is the fact that senior safety Jordan Kovacs is healthy. He played through a nagging knee injury in the second half of the season. With 5 weeks of rest, expect Kovacs to be healthy and a disruptive force in his final game.
Prediction: So far this season I am 9-3 predicting the outcome of Michigan Football games. This should be a close game and possibly a defensive struggle. My biggest concern for Michigan is the offensive line. The good news is that Taylor Lewan should be healthy for this game, something he wasn’t as the season wound down. A healthy Lewan should be able to limit the damage that Clowney inflicts. If Michigan runs an offense similar to what they did against Iowa, with Gardner at QB and Robinson at RB and WR, I think they can be productive. I think this game is a toss up. I also have thought all along that Michigan’s senior class was going to do something special this season. This game presents them with one final opportunity to do that. If you’ve read my stuff before you know I view things in a light most favorable to Michigan and when in doubt, I go with the Maize and Blue. Michigan wins 24-21
In addition to JT Floyd, starting punter Will Hagerup and linebacker Brandin Hawthorne have also been suspended for the Outback Bowl.
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