Outback Bowl: Michigan was a mild disappointment. Their defense was stronger than expected. Their offense was erratic. The Wolverines lost four games away from home to teams with a combined record of 46-4. They were good enough to keep themselves within one play, but never looked poised to make it. South Carolina got bit by a brutal, three-game stretch. They crushed Georgia at home, but weren’t quite good enough to take down LSU in Baton Rouge and came out flat against Florida.
Don’t expect many points. South Carolina finished ninth in the SEC in yards per play offense. They had LSU production with less balance and consistency. The Gamecocks have quarterback confusion. They don’t have the big receivers to pick on a short-handed, small Michigan secondary. Their offensive line can be a liability. They have neither the big receivers to pick on a short-handed, small Michigan secondary nor the unstoppable force at tailback with Marcus Lattimore sidelined.
Then there is Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines have zero conventional running game and an ill-equipped offensive line inside the tackles. Sustained movement will be difficult. If they find success, it will be through creative use of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Against Ohio State “creativity” meant swapping the two in and out at quarterback, telegraphing run/pass 100 percent of the time they weren’t fruitlessly rushing up the middle.
This game should be boring, close and come down to Ace Sanders or Denard Robinson making a big play. South Carolina wins, by a field goal. Spurrier closes with a back-handed shot at Dabo. Pick: Michigan [+5]
Capital One Bowl: These may be the two most inscrutable teams from their respective conferences. Georgia upset Florida and were a more measured finish away from beating Alabama. The Dawgs were also blown out by South Carolina and forced to labor for a win against Kentucky. Nebraska ground out tough wins against most of the Big Ten, except when Ohio State scored 63 on them and Wisconsin dropped 70.
Run defense should be crucial. Georgia looked vulnerable on occasion this season. The Dawgs have not faced a running attack as versatile as Nebraska’s, especially with a rested Rex Burkhead, and missing big academic casualty John Jenkins will hurt. That said, their defense never suffered the comprehensive breakdowns Nebraska did. Against UCLA, Jonathan Franklin ran for 217 yards. Against Ohio State, Miller and Hyde combined for 320 yards and five touchdowns. In round two against Wisconsin, Badger tailbacks ran for 527 yards and eight touchdowns on 45 carries. Not hard to see why Nebraska lost those games.
The Cornhuskers had teams make them look terrible this season. Georgia is more talented than any team they have faced. A couple scores early puts this game on Taylor Martinez’ arm. Mark Richt maintains control. Pick: Georgia [-8]
[Photos via USA Today Sports]