No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. No. 18 Michigan Wolverines (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS)
Outback Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Tuesday January 1st, 2013. 1:00PM Eastern
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USC -5/Mich +5
Over/Under Total: 48
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The no. 18 Michigan Wolverines get their 2nd crack at one of the SEC’s elite when they meet the no. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks inside Raymond James Stadium in the Outback Bowl. The Wolverines started the year with a disappointing blowout loss to Alabama but rebounded for a solid 8-4 campaign. Now the Wolverines get the chance to close out the year with another shot at an SEC power against 10-2 South Carolina. For Coach Steve Spurrier, the Gamecocks have a chance to record back to back 11 win seasons for the first time in school history which will be yet another record for Spurrier at South Carolina.
The Gamecocks will travel into Tampa with some confidence having won 4 straight games including a 27-17 victory over in-state rival Clemson in the season finale. South Carolina has become one of the top teams in the SEC and Spurrier has the Gamecocks possibly knocking on the championship door in the SEC. Still, there is work remaining as the Gamecocks will enter Raymond James as 5 point favorites over the Wolverines. For those that have not watched South Carolina this year, the Gamecocks do not have a quick striking fun and gun offense that you may expect from a Spurrier coached team. Instead the Gamecocks have averaged just 387 total yards per game this year (87th in FBS).
Still the Gamecocks are 10-2 primarily for the fact that are extremely talented. Though the offense may not rack up a ton of yards, they have been efficient by averaging 31 points per game. QB Connor Shaw is a dual threat guy that can keep plays alive with his feet and is an accurate passer down the field. Shaw missed some playing time this year with injuries but still managed to post a 67.3 completion percentage with 15 scores and 7 picks. Shaw is the expected starter for the Outback Bowl now that he is healthy but do not be surprised if sophomore Dylan Thompson finds his way on the football field as well. South Carolina has relied on the passing game for the 2nd half of the season with the loss of star tailback Marcus Lattimore. Thompson got a few starts this season due to Shaw’s injuries and excelled on all platforms. So do not be surprised if Thompson gets a few snaps because he has a great deep ball arm.
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Still it is not the offense that makes South Carolina special. Rather it is the Gamecocks defense that has been outstanding this season. South Carolina’s defense ranks 12th overall holding opponents to just 312 yards per game. Defensive end JaDaveon Clowney may just be the best defensive player in America. It’s not normal for one defensive player to be able to totally change games but that is exactly what Clowney is capable of. Just ask Clemson QB Tahj Boyd that was sacked 5 times by Clowney in their rivalry game. Not just Clowney, but South Carolina has tremendous talent among the defensive front and it will be interesting to see if Michigan’s offensive front can withstand the challenge.
The best option to beat the athletic front of South Carolina would be to have a healthy Denard Robinson. The senior quarterback has been plagued with nerve damage in his elbow and it is uncertain if he will get the start against South Carolina. Robinson has not had a great year tossing 9 touchdowns and interceptions a piece but he has the speed to subside South Carolina’s pass rush. A healthy Robinson would be fun to see against South Carolina’s defense but QB Devin Garner may get the nod. Garner has been decent towards the end of the year hitting 63% passing for 8 scores and 4 picks. Like South Carolina, Michigan has not been explosive on offense but their defense typically keeps them close to the end zone. If both defenses take over, it could come down to the team that can make a few big plays. That is why Robinson could be the difference maker if he is able to go.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I see two struggling offenses in this game against two better defenses than perhaps either team has seen in quite some time. I think this game stays really low in terms of scoring. Take the under 48!
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