I know that we got matched up with Michigan again in the Outback Bowl and basically everyone wanted a different opponent. You can't help the card you’re dealt, so we’ll just going to have to take the card we’re dealt.
I don't love the matchup for us, but I don't hate it, either. Michigan has an extremely good defense — they’ve only given up more than 20 points four times and three of those were losses. The other was an overtime game with Indiana, which ended 27-20. Their other loss came to Mark Dantonio and the Michigan State Spartans. I’m just going to share a few reasons I think Carolina can do well in this game.
Michigan’s quarterback is not playing well.
Statistically, John O’Korn is by far the worst quarterback we have played all season. He’s thrown for fewer than 1,000 yards, has two TDs to 6 INTs, and a season quarterback rating of 45.
In his last two games against Wisconsin and Ohio State, O’Korn was 19-of-40 for a little more than 200 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Now, Wisconsin and Ohio State are extremely good competition, just missing out on the College Football Playoff at No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. O’Korn is nothing near dual threat or a sneaky athlete; South Carolina has struggled in a lot games against dual-threat QBs.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has also opened up the quarterback competition again with freshman Brandon Peters now healthy after suffering a concussion earlier in the season. Peters went 37 of 64 for 486 yards and 4 touchdowns in his appearances against Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland, and Wisconsin. He’s likely the Wolverines’ best bet, and will be auditioning to become the full-time starter.
If we can stop the run and put Michigan in third and long like we did against Arkansas and how we did a bit against Georgia, making the quarterback beat us is a huge step to success.
Michigan’s offense is just as mediocre as Carolina’s.
In terms of offensive drive success, South Carolina and Michigan rank 89th and 91st respectively according to Foootball Outsiders. ODS means that these teams aren't generating success compared to where they’re starting from. So if South Carolina starts at the 20, then they're only getting to the other side of the field about a third of the time. In almost every offensive stat in Football Outsiders, South Carolina and Michigan are ranked lower than 60.
Obviously, Michigan’s offensive passing game is nonexistent. Even their rushing attack, which is still really good, doesn't have a 1,000-yard rusher and is just good, not great, to me. If Michigan’s defense wasn't as playing as well as they are, this team could easily be a lot worse record-wise.
Michigan doesn't show up in big games.
Say what you want, Jim Harbaugh hasn't done anything extremely spectacular in his three years at Michigan. Sure, his first two seasons he finished 10-3, but Michigan hasn't finished higher than third in the Big 10 East and the Wolverines are 5-7 against ranked opponents since Harbaugh took over.
In three years under Harbaugh, Michigan has only beaten Michigan State once (MSU finished 3-9 that year) and hasn't beaten Ohio State. Those are considered their biggest rivals along with Penn State, and to me Michigan just seems to be beating up on a bunch of below average teams.
I’m not extremely confident about a win in this game, I just need to know which South Carolina team is going to show up. If the team that showed up against Clemson and Kentucky plays, we’re not going to score 10 points. If the team that played against Arkansas and Georgia shows up, I’d give the Cocks a pretty good chance.
I did see a video of Michigan and South Carolina players almost fighting and having to be pulled and pushed apart, so I do believe they're going to be really fired up for this game. The score of the Outback Bowl is going to rely on whether or not the Gamecocks can make Michigan’s quarterback beat us and not allow them to run all over the defense, and whether Bentley decides to come to play. Michigan’s defense is extremely stout, but with Bryan McClendon calling plays it seems like we all have a new hope for the offense.