The last time Michigan met an SEC opponent, it ended up crushing every hope and dream they had going into the 2012 season. South Carolina looked they finally made the jump into the nation’s elite this season, but two consecutive losses in the middle of the season ended their hopes and dreams about a BCS bowl.
After an impressive 2011, many saw Michigan as the favorite in the Big Ten and possibly a team that could make some noise on the national front. They ended up losing to Alabama on the first day of the season in such dominating fashion that no one spoke about that again. They finished second in their division, losing to the top three teams in the nation (Alabama, Notre Dame and Ohio State) while also losing to Nebraska in a divisional battle.
A lesson to be learned and eventually prevail, or just a past that tells about Michigan’s inability to beat good teams? It all depends on their running game and their ability to dominate through it early on. Denard Robinson is no longer a quarterback. He played soley as a running back in the previous two games, going for a combined 220 yards. Michigan averaged 187.3 yards per game on the ground this season. Robinson has 4,395 rushing yards, 78 shy of passing Anthony Thomas for second on the school’s all-time list. His 42 rushing TDs are third in Michigan’s annals.
At quarterback, it’ll probably be Devin Gardner, who has thrown for 1,005 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions to go with seven rushing scores since taking over for Robinson.
The problem is South Carolina’s defense, ranked 12th in the nation, and especially Jadeveon Clowney, the SEC defensive player of the year, who recorded 13 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss this season. Michigan have allowed a Big Ten low 15 sacks this season.
On the quarterback front for South Carolina, it’s still a question. Both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson are in the starting picture, but Shaw probably has the edge in that decision. He threw for 1732 yards, 15 touchdowns and 7 interceptions while running for 339 more. Thompson has thrown for 910 yards, 8 touchdowns and two interceptions, but has completed just over 50% of his passes.
This is Spurrier’s second trip to the Outback Bowl and fourth overall for South Carolina. The Gamecocks beat Ohio State in both 2001 and 2002, but lost to Iowa in their most recent appearance in 2009. The teams have split two all-time meetings, with Michigan winning the most recent one in 1985.
Prediction – Michigan had problems whenever they faced a real stout defense, with both of their quarterbacks prone to making very bad throws. South Carolina do have a problem with Lattimore as their running back, but probably have a good enough defense to pull them through in this one.