Both of these teams got a better bowl than expected and that could lead to a dull Game. In fact, the last time neither school in the OUtback Bowl was ranked in the AP Poll was back in the 2010 season. The hope is that this one will be closer than the last two in which the Big Ten scored a total of nine points between Northwestern and Iowa. This time around, the Big Ten is favored with Michigan an -8 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
This spread only keeps growing because Michigan is a more popular team. There’s a reason why the Wolverines have some of the best odds to win the National Championship entering every season with Jim Harbaugh as head coach. But yet again, Harbaugh’s team struggled against its best opponents and that left the team with Four losses. While they had quarterback questions all season, the hope is that Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson can come in for 2018 and make an impact. Unfortunately for UM fans, he can’t play yet.
South Carolina had a more impressive season even while finishing with the same record. Not much was expected from the Gamecocks and yet they still managed to finish second in the SEC East. Of course, that comes with a caveat in an extremely down year for the division. Wins over Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida don’t mean much, especially with a home loss to Kentucky and one-point win over Louisiana Tech on the Schedule. South Carolina played great defense, but its ineffective offense left them with 20 total points scored against two elite defenses late in the season (Georgia, Clemson). The problem is that Michigan’s defense is almost as good as those two, which means another 10-point Game could be in store for the Gamecocks.
The Wolverines allow just over 18 points per Game and rank as a top-10 defense in the country giving up 3.6 yards per carry. South Carolina’s offense hasn’t done many things right this season from averaging 4.0 yards per carry to Jake Bentley throwing just 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Running back Rico Dowdle is set to return from injury for this one, but that shouldn’t change much with A.J. Turner and Ty’Son Williams still there to receive carries. It’s hard to see those guys finding much room after they struggled against any decent defense this season. The way for South Carolina to cover is through Bentley and he’s thrown seven interceptions in the last Four Games. When asked to do more, he simply hasn’t done enough.
Of course, there’s a chance South Carolina holds Michigan to less than 20 points, as well. The Gamecocks aren’t as good on the defensive side, but still allow 3.9 yards per carry and have the tools to thwart a Michigan offense that’s had quarterback issues all season. For this one, Brandon Peters is set to start, who didn’t play against Ohio State due to a concussion. Peters hasn’t thrown an interception yet, but he also hasn’t attempted more than 18 passes in a Game and his three wins came against Rutgers, Minnesota and Maryland. But the fact that he hasn’t thrown an interception is the most important thing. The Wolverines will still try and run the ball as much as possible between Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Isaac, who is returning from injury. Those guys have had good seasons, but also a lot of those numbers were accrued against bad defenses.
South Carolina, which has seen numerous high-powered running attacks this season, can at least put up some resistance in this Game. If that’s the case, the cover potential will definitely be there with the spread up to eight points.
The Wolverines are 2-6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 1-4 ATS in their last five non-Conference Games. The Gamecocks have covered in their last five at a neutral site, but are 2-6 ATS in their last eight out of conference.
Our Pick – South Carolina +7.5