Outback Bowl Pick – January 1st
The Michigan Wolverines didn’t quite have the same success that they had in Brady Hoke’s first season as head coach at Michigan. The Wolverines started the season with a big loss to Alabama and ended the regular season with a loss to rival Ohio State. Still, the Wolverines are in a New Year’s Day bowl. South Carolina lost to LSU and Florida and swept the rest of their slate. The Gamecocks aren’t quite the same without Marcus Lattimore, but this team is still very talented. Let’s take a look at this year’s Outback Bowl.
Denard Robinson was one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy before the season, but he actually had a very disappointing senior season. Robinson couldn’t stay healthy, and Devin Gardner ended up quarterbacking the team in the last few games of the year. Brady Hoke said earlier this week that he is sticking with a two-quarterback system for the Outback Bowl. Robinson will likely be under center, but will he be able to throw the ball? He hasn’t attempted a pass since October 27. Michigan is transitioning to a pro-style offense, but they really need to spread it out and utilize both Gardner and Robinson’s abilities at least some of the time here.
The Michigan defense was terrific against the pass this year, but they did struggle at times against the run. The Wolverines gave up 207 yards on the ground in their loss to rival Ohio State in late November. They were also dominated by the Alabama offensive front in the season opener. It is important to remember how bad this unit was just two years ago. The Wolverines have turned their program around thanks to the huge improvement on this side of the ball.
South Carolina is without its best player in this one, but the Gamecocks are still extremely talented. The Gamecocks defense is one of the most talented in the nation. A defensive line with Clowney, Quarles, and Ellis is really tough to beat. Clowney may be the best pure pass rusher in the nation, and the Gamecocks have tons of great run stuffers in the middle of the defense as well. South Carolina ranks in the top 17 of every major defensive category. The Gamecocks are allowing only 17.4 points per game.
Marcus Lattimore’s playing days at South Carolina are over, but that doesn’t mean this offense is left empty-handed. Connor Shaw has matured into a very solid quarterback, and he appears to be healthy again after missing the team’s last game with a foot injury. Shaw is completing 67.3% of his passes this year, and he still has the athleticism to keep plays alive with his feet. The Gamecocks offense did struggle some in the last two weeks of the regular season, so we’ll see if they have what it takes to get back on track against a good Michigan defense.
Look for both defenses to show up ready to go in this one. It’s hard to imagine either offense putting up a big number. I think South Carolina wins a defensive battle.
South Carolina 20 Michigan 13