Michigan Wolverines (8-4 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (8-4 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)
Outback Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Monday January 1st, 2018. 12:00PM (EST)
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MICH -7.5/SC +7.5
Over/Under Total: 43
The Michigan Wolverines and South Carolina Gamecocks will meet up at the Outback Bowl inside Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on New Years Day. The Outback Bowl has historically featured teams from the Big Ten and SEC including both the Wolverines and Gamecocks as recently as 2013. If you remember that game, current Houston Texans and former Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney delivered the hit heard around the world in route to the Gamecocks 33-28 victory. The hit was considered one of the top plays in college footballs recent history and the stage is set for the Wolverines and the Gamecocks to deliver another unforgettable moment in this years Outback Bowl.
Currently the Wolverines are favored by 7.5 points over the Gamecocks despite both teams supporting an equal 8-4 SU record. Against the books, the Gamecocks have been on the plus side of the money at 7-4-1 ATS compared to Michigans 5-6-1 mark against the books. However, Michigan is still the expected favorite because they have honestly appeared to be the better football team this year. If you want to simply compare resumes, 3 of the 4 losses suffered by Michigan were at the hands of top 10 ranked teams. South Carolina was also beaten by two different top 5 teams but their complete body of work was least impressive in terms of quality wins.
From an expectations standpoint, we would probably be safe to assume that scoring will be limited. Both the Gamecocks and Wolverines are defensive oriented teams. Michigan clearly has the better defense yielding opponents to just 268 yards per game as the 3rd best total defense in the FBS. The Wolverines have allowed just 18.3 points per game and lead the nation in passing defense giving up just 142 yards per game. South Carolinas defense is not clearly as good on paper ranking 51st overall yielding 374 yards and 20.8 points (26th in FBS) per game. However, I will say that the Gamecocks defense is under rated because they would post more appeasing statistics if not for the offenses struggles throughout the year.
In fact, the reason the Wolverines are favored by more than a touchdown is likely a result of South Carolinas offensive woes this year despite seemingly equal bodies of work. The Gamecock offense was completely smothered by the likes of Georgia and Clemson in the final weeks of the season. The Gamecocks scored just 10 points in both contests while star quarterback Jake Bentley struggled immensely threw just 2 touchdowns compared to 4 interceptions. I use those two games as reference because Michigans defense is very relatable in terms of Clemson and Georgia statistically. The Gamecocks offense currently relies on Bentley and their passing attack. They have a few talented targets in WR Bryan Edwards and TE Hayden Hurst. However, they have not been very consistent in their production.
The lack of offensive production resulted in former Offensive Coordinator Kurt Roper losing his job at the end of the regular season. While the Gamecocks wait to name a replacement, you have to believe this matchup against Michigans defense is troublesome. Now I will be the first to admit that Michigan has had plenty of struggles on the offensive side of the ball as well. The quarterback saga that plagued the 2017 season has resulted in just 9 touchdown passes and 8 interceptions. However, Michigan still has a reliable rushing attack behind Karan Higdon and Chris Evans. Together the two tailbacks have rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 17 touchdowns. They are far from explosive but still efficient. Fortunately for Michigan that is all they will need against South Carolina.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: This game is all about the matchup and South Carolinas offense is currently in shambles. Michigan matches up perfectly against South Carolinas offense and that will lead to repeated short field opportunities. Take Michigan -7.5 - Move the line on this game up to 20 points by inserting it into a 20 point football teaser at the web’s best sportsbook: 5dimes!