(HT: Michigan Football)
As you already know, Michigan and South Carolina have been tapped to play in the 27th Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla. It's like the late '90's/early 2000's all over again.
Michigan enters college football's
exhibition season postseason with an 8-4 record, having beaten essentially everyone they ostensibly should beat and losing to every team on the schedule worth something (although Saturday's Big Ten championship game makes the Nebraska loss a tad less easier to rationalize away, Denard's injury accounted for or not).
The Gamecocks, on the other hand, enter with a 10-2 (6-2) record, with their only two losses coming in back-to-back on the road at LSU and Florida. The former was a hard-fought 2-point defeat, but the Florida game was the lone black mark on the 2012 docket for USC (a 33-point defeat against the Gators).
The Gamecocks handled Georgia with ease back in early October, but just as in 2007, Georgia appears to be a much different team now than they were back then. Regardless, that 35-7 drubbing is impressive.
Steve Spurrier's squad also boast a solid 10-point victory on the road at Clemson during rivalry week, a win which made Spurrier South Carolina's all-time leader in wins. Click clack indeed. The Gamecock defense held Clemson QB Tajh Boyd to fewer than 200 yards through the air (183 to be exact) and forced Boyd to throw a pair of picks.
Although many Michigan fans may be breathing a sigh of relief as a result of avoiding Georgia, Florida and LSU, South Carolina will provide a tough test for a Michigan team that has not been able to run the ball with its tailbacks against basically anyone this season. Needless to say, what Michigan does on the offensive line to combat USC's talented front will go a long way toward determining the outcome, assuming the Michigan defense can continue to do what it has done all season post-Alabama.
As always, I'm sure the Michigan blogosphere will dissect this matchup in painstaking detail in the coming weeks, but, for now, some numbers (NB: it doesn't look like Football Outsiders has updated to include the last two weeks of games):
- South Carolina ranks 41st in offensive FEI and 6th in defensive FEI. Michigan is 25th and 23rd respectively in those departments.
- In S&P (a play-by-play metric as opposed to the drive-oriented FEI), USC ranks 45th in offensive S&P+ (to Michigan's 10th) and 8th in defensive S&P+ (to Michigan's 29th).
- Of course, South Carolina is 5th in the nation in sacks with 40. LET'S HAVE A REAL GOOD TIME. Clowney leads the way with 13, and fellow defensive ends Chaz Sutton, Aldrick Fordham and Devin Taylor have pitched in a combined 12.5 sacks themselves. Godspeed, play-actioning-after-not-really-establishing-a-run-threat-at-all Devin Gardner.
- Despite losing star tailback Marcus Lattimore to yet another extremely unfortunate knee injury in the Tennessee game, the Gamecocks finished the season with comfortable wins against Arkansas, Wofford and Clemson. Against Tennesee, Arkansas and Wofford, QB Connor Shaw completed 68% of his passes (50-82) for 750 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions, in addition to two touchdown scores on the ground. He did have to sit out the Clemson game after a foot injury suffered against Wofford; backup Dylan Thompson performed admirably, completing 23 of 41 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns to only one interception.
- Shaw might not be Danny Wuerffel, but it appears that Spurrier has finally found an above average option at quarterback in Columbia. Shaw has had an efficient season through the air and is a dangerous runner as well. Although this play was called back on a clipping penalty, this Shaw run against Missouri speaks to his running ability: