No. 10 South Carolina will take on No. 18 Michigan on Tuesday afternoon in the Outback Bowl with kickoff slated for 1 p.m. This article takes a look at what the Gamecocks (10-2) must do well to ensure victory.
South Carolina seniors T.J. Johnson and Kenny Miles have helped to set a school record with 37 victories over the last four years. A win against on January 1, 2013 at 1 p.m. against Michigan would set the school record by four wins besting last year's senior class total of 34 wins.
1. Focused from the outset – South Carolina’s teams have been hit or miss in bowl games under Steve Spurrier as far as their levels of focus and motivation go. Player leadership is key, and there’s no doubt the Gamecocks have leaders on this team, and it’s very important this team emerges from the locker room ready to play a full game.
2. Pressure Gardner – The Michigan offensive line has had issues this season protecting the quarterback, and it’s likely the South Carolina front will be the most athletic they’ve faced so far. Obviously Alabama’s front-7 is very talented, but their defense doesn’t feature the kind of edge rushers the Gamecocks bring to the table. While Devin Gardner has shown he can make plays on the run, he can’t be allowed to get comfortable in the pocket.
3. Establish the run – South Carolina is clearly better on offense when they are having success running the football, and they are coming off a game against Clemson where they ran the ball 45 times without Connor Shaw in the lineup. With Shaw as healthy as he’s been since early in the 2012 season, he will give the Gamecocks an added dimension in the running game and another dangerous player for the Wolverine defense to account for.
4. Protect the football – Two years ago in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, the Gamecocks turned the ball over five times and continuously put the defense in bad situations, and went on to lose to Florida State. Last year in the Capital One, the offense didn’t turn it over once, and the Gamecocks defeated Nebraska. It’s imperative that South Carolina win the turnover battle in this game and not give the Michigan offense any easy scoring opportunities.
5. Contain Denard Robinson – Michigan playmaker Denard Robinson could line up at three different positions (QB, RB and WR), and he is still the most dangerous offensive weapon Brady Hoke has to work with. South Carolina’s defense needs to be as physical as possible with him when he has the ball in his hands, as ball security is not a strength of his. Wrapping up will also be key, as he is at his best once he gets into the open field.
Final analysis – Predicting how South Carolina teams will perform in a bowl game is a crapshoot at best, but I think this team has what it takes to be ready. I expect this to be a tight contest throughout, but I think the Gamecock defensive line will eventually prove to be too much for the Michigan front to handle down the stretch and to be the difference in the game.
Prediction – South Carolina 27 Michigan 17
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