2013 Outback - South Carolina 33, Michigan 28

Posted Jan 1, 2013

2012-2013 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2013 Outback

2013 Outback

South Carolina 33, Michigan 28

- 2012-2013 CFN Bowl Central
- CFN Thoughts and Analysis on the Outback Bowl

National Rankings
87th Total Offense 80th
11th Total Defense 10th
44th Scoring Offense 57th
13th Scoring Defense 16th
84th Rushing Offense 40th
15th Run Defense 58th
65th Passing Offense 95th
65th Passing Defense 2nd
48th Turnover Margin 99th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
S   M
3.5 Quarterbacks 4.5
3 RBs 3
3.5 Receivers 3.5
2 O Line 3.5
5 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4
4 Secondary 4.5
4 Spec Teams 3.5
5 Coaching 5
(AP) TAMPA, Fla. -- Steve Spurrier's plan to use two quarterbacks in the Outback Bowl worked so well that Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw both earned game balls.

That's a first for the Head Ball Coach, who has a well-known penchant for benching struggling QBs. Except in this case, the Gamecocks' winningest coach used his talented pair of passers by design.

Shaw began Tuesday's 33-28 victory over Michigan (No. 18 BCS, No. 19 AP) with a 56-yard touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd. Thompson closed it out by throwing a 32-yard TD strike to Bruce Ellington in the final minute to help South Carolina (No. 10 BCS, No. 11 AP) match the school record for victories in a season.

"I don't know if I've ever given two quarterbacks a game ball, but today I said: 'Hey, we've got to give them to both you guys,'" Spurrier said.

"Both those young men are just so super team-oriented. There's no jealousy, nothing. ... Those guys are just really, really good teammates. Wonderful team players," the coach added. "We tried to tell Connor: 'It's your game.' And it was his game, but Dylan was going to play. He understood that. It worked beautifully as it turned out."

Thompson replaced Shaw during the winning drive, covering the final 43 yards after Shaw began the march from his own 30 and kept it alive with a 6-yard completion to Ace Sanders on a fourth-and-3 play. Devin Gardner's third TD pass of the game had given Michigan a 28-27 lead.

"I wasn't nervous. I knew I had great guys around me, and I trusted them and just was confident," Thompson said.

Shaw threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns after missing the Gamecocks' regular-season finale with a left foot sprain. Thompson led the Gamecocks (11-2) to a victory at archrival Clemson, and threw for 117 yards and two TDs in the bowl.

Gardner threw for 214 yards in his fifth start for Michigan (8-5) since Denard Robinson injured his right elbow late in the season. Robinson took some snaps at quarterback and even attempted his first passes in a game since Oct. 27, but lined up mostly at running back and rushed for 100 yards on 23 carries.

Sanders caught TD passes of 4 yards from Thompson and 31 yards from Shaw, who completed 18 of 26 passes before aggravating his foot injury and limping off during the final drive. The speedy receiver had nine catches for 92 yards and also scored on a 63-yard punt return -- one of four plays over 50 yards yielded by Michigan.

Gardner was 18 of 36, including TD passes of 5 yards to Drew Dileo and 10 and 17 yards to Jeremy Gallon, who gave Michigan its late lead and finished with career bests of nine receptions and 145 yards. Robinson set the NCAA record for career yards rushing by a quarterback, hiking his four-year total to 4,495 -- 15 more than West Virginia's Pat White ran for from 2005-08.

"I'd rather win the game," said Robinson, who attempted two passes in the third quarter, both incompletions, and also ran twice on plays in which he took the snap as the quarterback -- a role he's embraced since being injured during a loss to Nebraska.

"It was just what I thought it was going to be," Robinson said. "I tried to make the most of it."

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was quiet for much of the day, but shifted momentum in the fourth quarter with a big hit on Vincent Smith that sent the running back's helmet rolling several yards backward and caused a fumble that the SEC defensive player of the year recovered to set up Shaw's TD pass to Sanders for a 27-22 lead.

The TD capped a three-play sequence that began with Michigan running its second fake punt of the game, gaining 4 yards to the Wolverines 41 for what was ruled a first down, despite not appearing be one when the officials called for a measurement. South Carolina challenged the spot, but the ruling on the field was upheld.

Clowney then slammed into Smith just as the Michigan runner was taking the handoff from Gardner, jarring the ball loose.

"I asked one of those other refs there. I said, 'You know the ball did not touch the first-down marker.' He said, 'I know it didn't.' I said, 'Well, why did he give it to them?' and he said, 'I don't know,'" Spurrier said.

"Clowney knocked the ball out the next play, so I'm glad they gave it to them. ... We gained about 10 or 15 yards."

Robinson was injured during the first half of Michigan's two-touchdown loss to Nebraska on Oct. 27. He missed the rest of that game, as well the next two against Minnesota and Northwestern before returning the final two weeks of the regular season to contribute in ways that didn't require him to throw the ball.

The 6-foot, 197-pound native of Deerfield Beach, Fla., entered the game during Michigan's second possession and ran for 15 yards on his first play. Gardner threw 26 yards to Gallon, moving the Wolverines into position for Brendan Gibbons to kick a 39-yard field goal.

Down 14-3 after Sanders' punt return, Michigan marched 75 yards in 11 plays to trim South Carolina's lead to four, with Robinson carrying four times for 20 yards along the way. Gardner finished the drive by flipping his touchdown pass to Dileo early in the second quarter.

Michigan began the day ranked second in the nation in pass defense, allowing 155 yards per game. South Carolina matched that in the opening half alone, with most of the yardage coming on Shaw's long TD throw to Byrd and Thompson's 70-yard completion to Jones that led to Sanders' second TD for a 21-10 lead.

The Wolverines turned South Carolina's only turnover into Gibbons' 40-yard field goal in the second quarter, and Matt Wile's Outback Bowl-record 52-yard field goal trimmed Michigan's deficit to 21-16.

South Carolina ended on a five-game winning streak that followed consecutive losses to LSU and Florida. The Gamecocks also won 11 games last season.

"We hit eight of 10 goals we started the season with," Spurrier said. "We did that last year, too. That's good, but it still can be better."

Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
Jan. 1, 1:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … The last time Michigan faced an SEC team it didn't look like it belonged in the same sport, much less on the same field with Alabama in the 41-14 loss to open up the season. The previous game against SEC team came in the 2011 Gator Bowl against Mississippi State in a Rich Rodriguez era-ending 52-14 loss.

The Lloyd Carr finale against the Tim Tebow and Urban Meyer Florida squad – a 41-35 win in the 2008 Capital One Bowl – seems like it was several eras ago, and while Michigan has undergone a major overhaul and is on the rise under Brady Hoke, respect will be hard to come by for the program and the Big Ten without a nice win over someone from the SEC.

The loss against the Tide aside, Michigan was closer to having a special team than it might appear, coming achingly close in a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame and battling Ohio State hard in a 26-21 loss. The offense was mediocre and missing the pop expected with Denard Robinson in the backfield, but the defense turned a corner and showed that, again, things are changing for the better.

But nothing that happened this year will matter much without a win over South Carolina.

Few top teams had to fight through the adversity that the Gamecocks had to handle. The loss of star running back Marcus Lattimore to a devastating knee injury was a slug in the gut, but the bigger overall issue was the lack of anything to play for. For all intents and purposes, the hopes of winning the SEC title all but went out the window after the 44-11 loss to Florida in mid-October, but the team kept fighting and kept playing well. How mentally tough was USC? It all but knew it was going to be in this bowl a month before the season ended, and yet it came up with three great performances to close things out.

Like Michigan, the South Carolina offense is a bit hit-or-miss, relying on defense and a devastating pass rush to control games. There might not be any offensive stars with Lattimore gone, but the attack takes advantage of its opportunities helped by the defense that came up with a brilliant campaign. A win would mean a second straight 11-win season and 31 victories in three seasons – easily the greatest span in school history. However, the program hasn't exactly rocked in bowl games.

As good as the Gamecocks have been under Steve Spurrier, they lost three straight before beating Nebraska in last season's Capital One. This is a new world for a program that hasn't known too much success until the last decade, and even though this might not have been the season the team was hoping for, a win would make this a special season.

Players to Watch: Is Denard Robinson really going to play defensive back? No, but there's been talk that he could be a terrific defensive back at the next level, but for now, Michigan will keep South Carolina guessing about how the star playmaker will be used. After getting banged up late in the year, and with Devin Gardner showing he could handle the work under center, Robinson did a little bit of everything with 122 rushing yards and a score on ten carries against Ohio State and two catches for 24 yards, and 98 more on the ground, in the win over Iowa. He'll see time under center, as a wideout and as a runner in the final game of his college career, and after rough outings in his last two bowl appearances, he's due for a big finish.

All of this has been made possible by the emergence of Gardner, who didn't even get the call against Nebraska when Robinson got hurt. Instead, he got the start against Minnesota the next week and was brilliant, completing 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards and two scores while also rushing for a touchdown. Big, athletic and poised, he makes up for his mistakes with big plays – he threw a pick in each of his four games – and he showed late against Northwestern that he can occasionally pull rabbits out of a hat. However, against South Carolina he'll be under pressure all game long.

If the rules allowed it, Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney would be getting measured up as a top five overall draft pick. Instead, the true sophomore is back for one more season as one of the best pass rushers in college football with size, shocking quickness of the ball, and a great closing step when he gets a bead on a quarterback. While he made plays throughout the year – and required the full attention of offenses to keep him out of the backfield – he blew up against Clemson with 4.5 sacks in the win. Michigan's offensive line has only allowed 16 sacks on the season and has had a month to prepare for him, but Nebraska also had time and got hit with two sacks in the Capital One.

South Carolina will win if … the defense forces a slew of turnovers. Giveaways have been a big problem for the Michigan passing game, but fumbles were also an issue late in the season with three killers against Ohio State to go along with a pick. The loss to Notre Dame – five interceptions and a fumble. The loss to Nebraska – three interceptions. The loss to Alabama – three picks. 16 of the team's 25 turnovers came in the four losses and going 0-3 when throwing multiple interceptions. South Carolina doesn't force a ton of turnovers, but with the aggressive pass rush and the athletic secondary, bank on at least a few takeaways.

More than anything else, South Carolina has to come out sharp. This is a tremendous front-running team that's great at letting the defense take control while getting grinding drives out of the offense. Connor Shaw needs to be as sharp as he was against Missouri, coming up firing and completing 20-of-21 passes. Overall, the Gamecocks could show where they stand in the first five minutes, like they did when they roared early against Georgia. This can't be the team that was disinterested in the first half of the Kentucky game.

Michigan will win if … the offense has a quick tempo and keeps the second and third downs to manageable distances. Without Fitzgerald Toussaint, the running game will mostly rely on Robinson and Gardner to keep things moving on the ground, but South Carolina has the speed and athleticism to keep the big plays to a bare minimum. Michigan isn't going to slug the Gamecocks in the mouth, so it's vital that the offense takes what's given and is satisfied with little gains to keep out of 2nd-and-9 and 3rd-and-6. The last thing Michigan can afford is to turn into a pure passing team that lets the Gamecock pass rush tee off.

On the other side, Michigan's defensive front has to match the South Carolina line tackle for loss for tackle for loss. The Gamecock offensive front isn't physical and it isn't strong in pass protection. The formula might be to keep the offensive mistakes to a minimum and hope for enough big plays on defense to win the field position battle. The kicking game isn't special, but the Wolverines have to take points whenever they're available – this isn't a game to take a slew of big chances. Michigan has to play the game straight and hope the defense can get it done.

What Will Happen: South Carolina' s defense will be better than Michigan's. The Gamecocks find ways to get points creatively, and while the focus will be on Michigan and how the coaching staff uses Robinson, Steve Spurrier and his staff will pull a few rabbits out of the visor to balance the attack. Ace Sanders will come up with one big return to change the game around, Michigan will have to start throwing, and then the bad things will happen.

CFN Prediction: South Carolina 27 … Michigan 20
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) South Carolina -5.5 O/U: 47.5

Outback Bowl History
2012 Michigan State 33, Georgia 30 3OT
2011 Florida 37, Penn State 24
2010 Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 OT
2009 Tennessee 21, Wisconsin 17
2008 Iowa 31, South Carolina 10
2007 Penn State 20, Tennessee 10
2006 Florida 31, Iowa 24
2005 Georgia 24, Wisconsin 21
2004 Iowa 37, Florida 17
2003 Michigan 38, Florida 30
2002 South Carolina 31, Ohio St 28
2001 South Carolina 24, Ohio State 7
2000 Georgia 28, Purdue 25  OT
1999 Penn State 26, Kentucky 14
1998 Georgia 33, Wisconsin 6
1997 Alabama 17, Michigan 14
1996 Penn State 43, Auburn 14
1995 Wisconsin 34, Duke 20
1994 Michigan 42, NC State 7
1993 Tennessee 38, Boston Coll 23
1991 Clemson 30, Illinois 0
1990 Auburn 31, Ohio State 14
1989 Syracuse 23, LSU 10
1988 Michigan 28, Alabama 24
1986 Boston College 27, Georgia 24 

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