In an unexpected turn of events, South Carolina will take on Michigan in the Outback Bowl. The Outback Bowl was one of the expected destinations for the Gamecocks, but Northwestern or Nebraska were thought to be the likely opponents. It was thought that the Capital One Bowl would take Michigan regardless of whether or not Nebraska was available, partially because Nebraska played in the Capital One Bowl last year. However, after Nebraska turned out to be available, the Cap One decided to take them, despite the fact that the Huskers limp into bowl season after getting absolutely slaughtered by Wisconsin in the B10 Championship Game. That meant the Wolverines slipped to the Outback, which paired them with South Carolina.
I'll be honest: I'm absolutely ecstatic about this matchup. If the Sugar Bowl wasn't an option, I wanted a game against a traditional power from the Big 10. The level of football being played in the conference may have deteriorated a bit in recent year, but it's still right behind the SEC in terms of national profile, and a game against one of its heavyweights provides a great opportunity for Carolina to gain some exposure. The win over Nebraska last year benefited our program's reputation as an up-and-comer, and this game against Michigan provides a similar opportunity to impress pundits and recruits. No offense to the Wildcats, but Northwestern just didn't do it for me quite as much, although I would have been happy with the game. USC-Michigan will be one of the premier mid-tier bowl games of the holiday season.
Of course, this isn't exactly a vintage Michigan team, and nor is it as good as it was supposed to be this year. This was the year that Michigan was supposed to challenge for the B10 title and maybe even be a dark-horse MNC contender, but it wasn't to be. However, in the Wolverines' defense, they've really only had two bad games this year, the opening-season blowout loss to Alabama, and a loss at Nebraska in which Denard Robinson was hurt and the Wolverines lost their division to the Huskers. Devin Gardner filled in well for Robinson down the stretch, and Robinson himself will be back and may play a Kordell Stewart-like role. This team, which we'll have more on in the coming weeks, will pose a solid challenge for the Gamecocks and should give us a fun New Years Day.