CFN Outback Analysis - S Carolina 33, Mich 28
Posted Jan 1, 2013

CFN's thoughts and analysis on South Carolina's thrilling win over Michigan

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Once again, Michigan lost to a ranked opponent. If you include the dog house Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan played four top shelf teams in the 2012 regular season, and beat only one - then No. 24 Northwestern. And they had to come from behind to force overtime. In the Big House.

Tuesday's loss to South Carolina made it one out of five.

Michigan was outrushed in all of those regular season games except for their close defeat to Notre Dame, when they had 161 yards to the Domers' 94. On Tuesday, like they did in South Bend, the Wolverines outrushed the Gamecocks 141 yards to 85 - 64 of which came on one run by starting quarterback Connor Shaw. However, this time Michigan actually took the lead twice - once at the end of the third quarter and then again with 3:29 to play.

One can question South Carolina's strategy heading into the game. The biggest difference between this year's Michigan team and 2011 was its run defense, which finished the 2012 season ranked in the middle of the FBS pack nationally. Yet despite being up for most of the first three quarters and averaging 5 ypc, head coach Steve Spurrier made it all about the pass.

After factoring for sacks, the Gamecocks only had seven running plays in each half.

That strategy nearly backfired on the favored Gamecocks. But in the end, it was clutch, hard-nosed play by Carolina's passing offense that sealed the win. Clutch play by the undersized receiver (and return man) Ace Sanders. Clutch play by arguably the toughest player in the SEC, Shaw, with two touchdown throws to zero interceptions, along with several late shots by the Wolverines. And clutch play by reserve quarterback Dylan Thompson, who came off the bench to complete 7-of-10 passing and two touchdowns, again with zero interceptions.

Thompson's game winning 32 yard toss to Bruce Ellington was actually underthrown, but he showed great nerve standing in the pocket with a big hit staring him right in the face, and the onions to throw into triple coverage. Loose, perhaps, but still...a lot of confidence to drop attempt THAT pass from THAT place on the field (near field goal range down by only a point), with THAT little time remaining...

A clutch victory for South Carolina and its head coach.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

1) Remember the 1997 Florida State-Florida game? That was a game in which Steve Spurrier juggled multiple quarterbacks – Noah Brindise and Doug Johnson – yet got both of them to play well on the same day. Florida's multiple looks confused Florida State's defense and pried open opportunities for the Gators, who won, 32-29. On the first day of 2013, Spurrier – whose quarterbacks at South Carolina have usually harmed the Gamecocks instead of helping them – finally presided over the kind of game in which his passing attack won a big-boy battle on the national stage. Both Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson made clutch plays when called upon. Shaw wobbled a bit, but he and Thompson both produced jawdropping scrambles to avert disaster on the Gamecocks' winning scoring march. Spurrier has a good quarterback situation on his hands in 2013. That's new in Columbia; Stephen Garcia might realize that if he had been more receptive to Spurrier's coaching, "he coulda been a contender; he coulda been somebody" as a collegiate quarterback.

2) Michigan lost on the scoreboard, but it sure won a lot of respect from the national college football community with this performance. What has to make head coach Brady Hoke particularly pleased heading into the 2013 season is that he has at long last found a quarterback. Denard Robinson is not a quarterback, but a running back/hybrid type who can make plays with his legs. Devin Gardner, though, is a QUARTERBACK. Against South Carolina, he made some throws that reminded college football observers of Tajh Boyd the night before for Clemson against LSU. Gardner threw some frozen ropes into tight windows, making a statement to offensive coordinator Al Borges that he can be Michigan's newest and best dropback passing force. This is what Borges and Hoke have wanted and needed in Ann Arbor. Now that they have their passer, they can play offense the way they want to. (Well, they also have to find a running back, too.)

3) Jadeveon Clowney's hit was as awesome as everyone thinks it was. The palming of the ball – the one-handed pickup of a fumble after the hit, just out of the reach of any Michigan player – was just as impressive if not more so.

4) South Carolina, for so long an impoverished program in the larger history of college football, has now produced back-to-back 11-win seasons with bowl wins over Nebraska and Michigan. The Gamecocks are moving up in the world. They haven't won an SEC title, and they do schedule non-conference cupcakes, but they have plainly not underachieved in recent seasons. They've achieved richly. Steve Spurrier has lost mustard on his fastball in terms of coaching quarterbacks, but in terms of creating a winning culture at programs and being resourceful enough to make use of existing talent, he's still in possession of acute football wisdom.

Richard Cirminiello

Love the toughness of those South Carolina quarterbacks, Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. Shaw played hurt, and Thompson hung in the pocket and got destroyed before tossing the game-winner to Bruce Ellington. Pair combined to throw four touchdown passes without a pick today.

This just in: Jadeveon Clowney declaring for the 2014 NFL Draft. The sophomore's Heisman campaign got off to a pretty good start, including one devastating hit on Vincent Smith that is sure to be the snapshot of Clowney's candidacy throughout the 2013 offseason.

What is it about the Outback Bowl? Rarely seems to disappoint.

Can't help but wonder where Michigan might have been this season had Al Borges planned a year ago for Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson to work out of the backfield together.

Good day to be an undersized wide receiver in Tampa. Ace Sanders and Jeremy Gallon, generously listed at 5-8, both caught nine passes and a pair of touchdown grabs. Sanders added a 63-yard punt return for six, delivering one clutch play after another for the Gamecocks.

Between now and the 2013 opener in September, Wolverines defensive coordinator Greg Mattison will need to develop more defensive playmakers other than Jake Ryan. The dearth of stoppers was never more apparent than on that final South Carolina drive for the win.

Wish the college game had Jon Gruden in a broadcast booth, week-in and week-out. The guy sees things that most don't, and makes the game eminently more enjoyable for the listener.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Many of us said it, but not many believed it because it was known as the SEC exerted its dominance, but Michigan is not as bad of a football team as the early train wreck in Dallas showed. If you believe that South Carolina is a solid ball club, then you also have to believe that Michigan isn't as horrible as you thought.

- Denard Robinson has now closed the book on his career at Michigan, and it's one of mystery. The kid is an obvious athletic talent that can fill up highlight reels and score touchdowns in bunches. There were some very curious and inconsistent moments though. Some games--like the ones against Alabama and Notre Dame this year--Robinson looked like a deer after being hit in headlights. He'll still get picked up by an NFL team because he's a playmaker. It just won't be at quarterback.

- BREAKING: Jadeveon Clowney is good. The fact that he still has another year before he can declare for the NFL is scary. He would be one of the top three picks if he came out today as a sophomore.

- I've said it already and I'll continue to say it: I cannot remember a year in which we had so many drama filled, white-knucklers. This was another in a long line this year, and we've yet to get to the BCS Bowls.

- Moral victories don't mean much at bowl season. The Big Ten needs some wins against quality competition, and it had it within grasp with Michigan's performance. In the end, it was not to be because the Wolverine defense was unable to stop the big play.

- South Carolina isn't going anywhere folks. Steve Spurrier has his plan in motion, he has personnel back, and the quarterback situation is in good shape for next year.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

Is there any doubt that Jadeveon Clowney is the best defensive end in college football? His highlight reel hit/fumble recovery on Vincent Smith completely turned the tide in this contest, killing any momentum that Michigan gained from picking up a first down on a fake punt.

It will be interesting to see how much consideration Clowney will receive for the Heisman Trophy next season, especially if he leads in the SEC in sacks again.

Give the Ol' Ball Coach credit for preparing both of his QB's to play in this contest. There aren't many bowl teams that have a capable backup that can lead the team on a game-winning drive against the nation's second-best pass defense.

The game ball goes to Ace Sanders, who led the Gamecocks in receiving and returned a punt for a TD. However, his biggest contribution came on USC's final drive as he picked up two crucial first downs to keep the drive alive.

Watch out for the Wolverines in the national championship race next season. Sure, they lost five games this year, but three of those losses came against Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State. After watching Devin Gardner turn in a solid effort against arguably the best pass rush in the nation, there's no reason why Big Blue can't compete for championship - provided that they stop turning the ball over (99th nationally in turnover margin).