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Outback Bowl Pick
The Outback Bowl usually presents a solid matchup (has went to overtime in two of last three years) between SEC and Big 10 schools and this year should be no different. The current line at 5 Dimes Sportsbook is South Carolina -6. It opened 6 but was bet all the way down to -3.5 before climbing back to 6. The total is 48.
South Carolina hasn't had to play the likes of Alabama or Texas A&M this season, but they've had their share of tough battles. The destroying of Georgia and road win at Clemson are their two highlights on the season. Against some of the best defenses in the country at LSU and Florida, they hit a snag and lost their only two games of the season back-to-back in the middle of October. The loss of Marcus Lattimore obviously hurts, but Connor Shaw will be available for this game after missing the regular season finale at Clemson.
Michigan already faced a SEC school to start the season off and it didn't end well losing 41-14 to Alabama at a neutral site. After starting the year ranked No. 8, things haven't come easy for the Wolverines. They've struggled away from home which is where all four of their losses have come. They have two road wins at Purdue and Minnesota, but those aren't all that respectable even if they are bowl teams. Key midseason comeback wins over Michigan State and Northwestern are the main reasons why they are still ranked. Those two wins were big, but they don't really stand up to Georgia and Clemson.
The Wolverines will likely try and keep the SC defense guessing after having a month to prepare for this game. To finish the season, their attack leaned on Devin Gardner passing the ball and Denard Robinson doing what he does best, acting more like a running back. Since Robinson's injury, Gardner has come in and given a spark to Michigan's offense. In four starts he has eight touchdowns and four interceptions while averaging 250 passing yards per game. Robinson has not thrown a pass since his injury back on Oct. 27 against Nebraska. He's averaging 130 rushing yards per game to go with seven rushing TDs. If you want to stop Michigan, you'll have to stop Robinson. He will take most of the rushing duties as regular starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint has a broken leg. Expect plenty of deep balls for Michigan as they have multiple receivers that can grab the long one. They have five receivers that average at least 16 yards per catch.
While Michigan has a dynamic attack, the Gamecocks defense will be tough to crack. If you don't believe it, they held Clemson to just 17 points in their last game of the season, a team that scores over 40 points per game. It won't be all that easy for South Carolina's offense, either. The Wolverines have been viable defensively and can play to any level of competition as seen when they stayed within striking distance against Notre Dame and Ohio State.
Connor Shaw may have to do a little more in this game if they can't get the run game going. Without Lattimore in the backfield, the Gamecocks are splitting carries between Kenny Miles and Mike Davis. They haven't really done much unless you count the Wofford game (which you shouldn't). Neither of those RBs has gained more than 53 yards outside of Wofford. Shaw also has 339 yards on the ground this season, but may not be as mobile due to his foot injury that kept him out in their last game. Receivers Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders will get most of the looks from Shaw. The two have combined for 1,003 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Our numbers suggest this one close enough to go down to the wire. We're a little worried backing the Big 10 against the SEC here but make note that Spurrier just 2-4 in Bowl games at SC and one of those losses came against the Big East, a 20-7 loss to UCONN in 2010. We'll grab the points. Michigan +6