The 2013 Outback Bowl should be a great match-up between the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Michigan Wolverines. Both teams have a lot of similarities, but one is just a little better.
Michigan had a tough season at times. The Wolverines did have to face both teams who are playing in the National Championship, plus an undefeated Ohio State team.
For the Wolverines, it was supposed to be a dual threat attack with the running ability of QB Denard Robinson and RB Fitzgerald Toussaint.
Toussaint suffered a gruesome ankle injury late in the year, while Robinson developed a nerve injury in his throwing arm, that has relegated him to an all-purpose player, lining up at both quarterback and running back at times. Devin Gardner is the quarterback for Michigan.
Michigan also has a top-20 defense in terms of points against, ranking 16th in the country.
Meanwhile, for the Gamecocks, this was supposed to be the season that everything was put together, making a run for an SEC Championship.
After being on top of the world with a statement win against then 5th-ranked Georgia, South Carolina lost a tough one on the road against LSU, before having their fate sealed with an embarrassing loss against Florida.
However, for a team that does not have a long history of winning football, a 10-win season still is not too shabby.
The Gamecocks’ offense has had moments of greatness, followed by moments of inconsistent play. A late season injury to RB Marcus Lattimore also hurt the offense.
This was supposed to be the year that the quarterback position would be stable for South Carolina. Injuries to starter Connor Shaw opened the door for Dylan Thompson to see some action. Thompson helped to lead the Gamecocks to two wins, including rival Clemson the last week of the season.
Shaw is the runner with passing ability. Thompson is the passer, with running ability.
The key to the Gamecocks’ offense is going to be the running game. South Carolina has to be able to run the ball against Michigan, to take the pressure off the quarterbacks, to give them an opportunity to win. Senior RB Kenny Miles has a knack for coming up big in significant games.
Defensively, the Gamecocks must force the Wolverines to pass. Michigan offers a lot of options running the ball, with the versatility of Robinson. It will be important for the Gamecocks’ front-7, which includes All-American DE Jadeveon Clowney, not to over-pursue the run, and get pressure on the quarterback with the pass.
Despite some good plays, the Gamecocks’ defensive backs are not good enough one-on-one in coverage, without getting pressure on the quarterback to force bad throws. South Carolina’s defense thrives on that pressure.
At the end of the day, while these two teams match-up well, the Gamecocks are just a little more battle tested, especially this year.
In 2012, the Big Ten Conference’s competition just did not seem up-to-par, as seen when a 7-5 Wisconsin team, only in the championship game because of penalties to Ohio State and Penn State, demolished the conference’s best team, Nebraska.
The SEC was as strong as ever in 2012, with two teams ranked in the top-3 to end the season. While the strength of this conference is still in the Western Division, there are about 10-12 teams in this conference that could compete with anyone in the country.
Like last year’s Capital One Bowl, it is close for three quarters, but the power of the SEC pulls away late.
Gamecocks 34, Wolverines 24