Outback Bowl: Michigan-South Carolina

Michigan was embarrassed in the season opener against Alabama, so the Wolverines have SEC revenge on their minds. South Carolina is dealing with the loss of Marcus Lattimore and a coach that can’t seem to make up his mind about a quarterback. But the Gamecocks have arguably the best defensive end in the nation, so this one should be exciting.  

Key Matchup

Expect either Conner Shaw or Dylan Thompson (depending on which quarterback coach Steve Spurrier chooses to start) to exploit whoever is replacing suspended cornerback J.T. Floyd. Floyd, along with starting punter Will Hagerup and backup linebacker Brandin Hawthorne won’t make the trip to Tampa after violating undisclosed team rules.

In a game where quarterback play will be critical, having a cornerback sitting at home does not bode well for Michigan’s chances. Thompson looked impressive in the Gamecocks 27-17 victory over Clemson, a game that was the hope of the ACC much the way the Outback Bowl is the grand hope of the Big 10 that someone, anyone, can upset the big, bad SEC.

With Shaw healthy again, it is unclear which Gamecocks quarterback will get the nod. “They both deserve to play,” Spurrier said. And there is a better than average chance that they both will.

Player to Watch

Jadeveon Clowney is always the most dynamic player on the field. He is a one-man wrecking crew who had four and a half sacks in his last game against Clemson and has amassed 13 sacks and 49 tackles on the year. That doesn’t count the number of times he has caused a quarterback to hurry a throw or roll to his right to avoid Clowney’s gargantuan reach. A healthy and hungry Clowney will be in the faces of Michigan QBs Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson for most of the day.  

Telling Stat

4 – The number of games Denard Robinson has both run and passed for more than 100 yards. He can line up anywhere and do most anything. And he will need all of those skills against a very good South Carolina defense.

Final Analysis

The missing players will hurt Michigan, and the Wolverines will be unable to control Clowney and that aggressive South Carolina defense. The only hope is that the Gamecocks lose the turnover battle. Otherwise this should be another SEC bowl win.  

The Pick: South Carolina 27-20