The New Year is almost here, and with it comes the Outback Bowl. The South Carolina Gamecocks will take on the Michigan Wolverines in the second straight bowl matchup for South Carolina against a Big 10 team.
Here are the three matchups to watch that could decide the game.
Jadeveon Clowney vs Whoever Is Blocking Him One-On-One
Brady Hoke, Wolverines head coach, said he believes anyone can block anyone one-on-one, it’s just a matter of “how long”. Well, if Hoke really decides not to double team Clowney for most of the game, the tackle that’s assigned to him will either be a hero or a dud in Ann Arbor upon his return to campus. Almost every team sent two blockers at Clowney at almost all times this season. The one team that consistently did not was Clemson. He only finished with, you know, four sacks that game.
Denard Robinson vs South Carolina’s Secondary
Not in the way you may be thinking. Sure Robinson has a good arm, but his passing ability doesn’t really scare anyone on South Carolina more than the ability of Aaron Murray or Tyler Bray or Tyler Wilson. What will keep the Gamecocks up at night is his speed. He will get past SC’s defensive line, and when he does, the Carolina secondary will have to be their to contain him. If the linebackers and especially the DBs can do this, Michigan’s offense won’t be able to run how it wants. If Robinson consistently breaks loose, Carolina will probably have a long trip back to Columbia after the game.
Special Teams vs Special Teams
I’ve said it all year, and it is about to come to fruition. Special teams wins games in college football. Michigan’s starting punter is suspended. Carolina’s starting punter is not, but he’s also not that great at punting. SC’s kickoff team finally proved it could blast the ball through the endzone consistently in the final few games of the year. The Gamecocks have a good return team on kickoffs and punts. There are no reasonable excuses if SC loses this battle. If they do lose it, though, I don’t see them winning the Outback Bowl.