While Nebraska and Wisconsin face off this weekend to determine the Big Ten champion, Michigan Wolverine fans will sit back and wait for an invitation to a game away from the Rose Bowl.
Michigan bookended their season with high-profile losses in 2012—losing to Alabama in Week 1 and the Ohio State Buckeyes over Thanksgiving weekend. Still, the Wolverines finished second in the Big Ten’s Legends Division, with an 8-4 record.
As we look towards bowl season, there are a number of attractive non-BCS bowl options that could match Michigan against the SEC one more time on New Year’s Day.
Capital One Bowl vs. Texas A&M
Michigan is 3-1 when traveling to Orlando for the Capital One Bowl, with their most recent victory coming in 2009 against Florida.
Certainly, there are few teams that want to face off against Texas A&M, the team that knocked-off Alabama at No. 1.
This game would, however, pit two of the country’s most talented rushing quarterbacks against one another.
Even as a freshman, Johnny Manziel has put his name in the middle of the Heisman conversation with 1181 yards and 19 touchdowns just on the ground alone. Those are numbers that would make Cam Newton blush.
In Maize, Denard Robinson has 1166 rushing yards himself, but just seven scores—down from 16 a year ago. This could be due to Robinson’s reduced time under center this year.
Still, to see these two match up would be intriguing, not to mention a test for each defense. A&M has allowed 18 touchdowns on the ground this year, while Michigan has given up just eight.
Gator Bowl vs. LSU
The Maize and Blue have not fared as well in Jacksonville on New Year's, just one win in three appearances.
If it happened, this would be a showdown between LSU’s head coach Les Miles against his old Alma Mater and employer.
Against LSU, Michigan would face a much better rush defense than Texas A&M. The Bayou Bengals allowed just 1237 yards on the ground this season.
Through the air, however, LSU is 94th in the country in pass yards per game. Compared to that, Michigan is the third best in yards allowed through the air and has allowed just 12 passing touchdowns this season—a number comparable to Nebraska, Michigan’s Big Ten counterpart.
LSU nearly upset Alabama earlier this year, and to start and end the season against national-championship-caliber opponents would certainly be a test for the Wolverines.
Outback Bowl vs. South Carolina
South Carolina reached No. 3 in the country at one point this season before becoming lax against LSU. After upsetting Georgia, the Gamecocks would have had the SEC East locked up with a win against Florida.
Instead, South Carolina suffered their only two losses of the season in back-to-back weeks on the road at LSU and in The Swamp.
Although they finished the season against No. 11 Clemson, the wind is out of the sails for the Gamecocks, who missed an opportunity to reach the National Championship.
With that, the Wolverines should be more motivated this year to win and parlay that success into a run at the Big Ten next season.
Still, it should be a great game, which has been the hallmark of the Outback Bowl in recent years. Two of the last three years have been decided in overtime, while the off year was a one-score-affair between Florida and Penn State.
Should these two schools meet, it would set some of the lowest-scoring defenses against one another; Michigan was 20th in points allowed this season, while South Carolina was just 14th.