South Carolina vs. Michigan: Outback Bowl Breakdown
No. 11 South Carolina (10-2) vs. No. 19 Michigan (8-4)
Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: It's the last time you'll get to see Denard Robinson in a Michigan uniform. Whether Robinson will play quarterback depends on how much he has recovered from a nerve injury in his throwing elbow that has kept him from throwing since the Nebraska game on Oct. 27. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke has said he intends to use Devin Gardner at quarterback some even if Robinson can throw, so Robinson could play some or all of the game at tailback or receiver. No matter where he lines up, savor one last chance to watch Robinson in a winged helmet. Though his career was sometimes affected by circumstances beyond his control -- he didn't hire Greg Robinson to coach the defense -- Robinson was one of the most exciting players in college football history. Every time he touched the football was an adventure. Players and fans alike fought for the right to play as Robinson in their video games with the hope that they might break off one magical Denard run. And though he was miscast as the quarterback in Al Borges' offense these past two seasons, Robinson always made games interesting; we are luckier as lovers of the game to have watched him play. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the college career of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. There was no doubt when Clowney came to Columbia that he was anything but a three-seasons-and-out player. Some NFL general managers would have loved to change the draft eligibility rules to take him No. 1 last year. If Shoelace happens to find himself with the ball against Mr. Clowney in the open field, just know that you're watching something special.
• Keep an eye on: South Carolina's quarterbacks, who should split time. Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier has said Connor Shaw will reassume the starting job after missing the Clemson game because of a sprained foot, but Dylan Thompson, who threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in South Carolina's win against Clemson, will also play. Shaw is the better runner, and he has an uncanny ability to make the correct choice on almost every zone-read play he runs. Thompson is the better downfield passer, but defenses should probably cheat to the back on most zone-read runs.
• Did you know: The Michigan defense has not allowed more than 199 passing yards in a game all season. The Wolverines entered bowl season ranked second in the nation in pass defense, allowing only 155.2 yards a game.
• Final analysis: The Wolverines can defend the pass, but with Shaw starting for the Gamecocks, the key will be defending the run. If they can do that, Michigan can win a low-scoring affair. If they can't, South Carolina will eat clock and grind out a victory. Gardner could have trouble against South Carolina ends Clowney and Devin Taylor. Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan -- a top NFL draft prospect -- can only block one of them.
• The pick: South Carolina 20, Michigan 17