The 2018 Michigan Wolverines have proven that they can beat almost anyone out there…not in the top 10. Against the top 10, they’ve been miserable.
It shows the brilliance and yet also the limits of what Jim Harbaugh can do. He doesn’t have a group of athletes capable of winning a national title – yet – but true to Harbaugh form, his team doesn’t give anything away.
A flawed Florida team was dispatched in Week 1. Michigan State would get lucky and steal a state championship later on, but Air Force was shut down after a brief rally, and P.J. Fleck’s attempts to create a plus-one blocker turned into a plus-extra whipping of Minnesota. Michigan is good when not physically overwhelmed.
Still, the Wolverines being a top-20 type squad means picking a winner at the Outback Bowl is more about SC. Do the Gamecocks have the tools to vanquish a gritty winner from the Big Ten?
Who: Michigan Wolverines vs South Carolina Gamecocks
When: Monday, January 1st 2018, 12 PM EST
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Lines: Michigan (-7.5) at SC (+7.5) / O/U Total: (43)
South Carolina looked like a very average P5 team until they Arkansas 48-22, then Vanderbilt 34-27 in late October without committing a turnover. The Gamecocks would go on to mark their own win over Florida despite sophomore QB Jake Bentley throwing 3 interceptions, and fight hard in losses to Clemson and Georgia.
Bentley has had some nice games, including the win over the Razorbacks. But his limitations are clear. He’s prone to reckless throws, and can be swarmed under by pressure as he was at Texas A&M.
Any defense that gives up 13 points to Mizzou and 24 points to Georgia is doing something right, however.
A healed Brandon Peters is returning to the lineup for the New Year’s bowl and is being hyped as a potential statement-maker in the postseason. After all, Michigan is physically maturing and could be on the cusp of greater things, so what better time than for one of their young QBs to break out?
But the real reason Harbaugh loves the underclassman is for ball-security, as Peters hasn’t thrown a pick in several starts and tends to make heady decisions. There likely won’t be as many fireworks as sober throw-aways.
It’s an evenly-matched game with a southern underdog playing in southern comfort. That’s not a (-7.5) spread. We would give Michigan an edge SU, but with a touchdown-loss paying off the best bet is SC to cover.