Just 13 hours into 2013, the South Carolina Gamecocks will take on the Michigan Wolverines in the Outback Bowl.
The Gamecocks are ranked 10th in the nation and sit at 10-2 on the year. Michigan is 18th and recorded a 8-4 record this season.
South Carolina will look to win the game on the strength of its defense, the efficiency of its quarterback, and the speed of its receivers.
The Wolverines, on the other hand, will try to win with an explosive offense led by a quarterback who can break a game wide open within the blink of an eye.
Jadeveon Clowney vs Denard Robinson.
Steve Spurrier vs Brady Hoke.
SEC vs Big 10.
However you want to bill this matchup, the story lines are intriguing across the board.
In his last game, Clowney recorded 4 sacks against a quarterback that, while bigger and less fast, plays a similar, rushing-attack style to Robinson. The Michigan QB hasn’t attempted a pass since late October because of a nerve injury, but he did rush for 122 yards and a touchdown out of multiple formations against Ohio State in the Wolverines last game.
Hoke has been a coach of the year, and a MAC Conference champion, while Spurrier has more accolades than this column can handle. One thing the two have in common is this: Neither has won an Outback Bowl. Spurrier has said he’d like to add the trophy to his extensive awards case.
Finally, the Big 10 has been overshadowed by the SEC for the past, well, several years… Especially during bowl season. There are plenty of Big 10 vs SEC matchups this year, and if Michigan can start the year off with a win over Carolina, it could be the jump-start the conference needs.
The Gamecocks are staring 11 wins in the face for the second year in a row.
Less than a day into the new year, we’ll see if they have what it take to actually get that 11th win.