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South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Michigan Wolverines: Who Has Outback Bowl Edge?

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IDecember 6, 2012

South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Michigan Wolverines: Who Has Outback Bowl Edge?

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    The Gamecocks are going to Tampa, Fla. to take on the Michigan Wolverines, one of the nation's proudest football programs. 

    These two teams have had disappointing years for various reasons.  The Gamecocks came a game away from competing for a national championship appearance (win against Florida or LSU, and they take on Alabama in the SEC championship play-in game) and the Wolverines finished 8-4. 

    However, this gives the Outback bowl a tantalizing matchup of teams that seldom see one another.  In fact, they've only met twice, and the series is tied 1-1. 

    Who looks best on paper?  Who has the higher statistical rankings?

    Who do I think wins?

    Let's take a look.

Rushing Offense

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    TeamNational RankPer Game Average
    South Carolina84th142.92 Yards
    Michigan39th187.33 Yards

     

    Michigan has the advantage here by 45 yards per game.  Their national rank is much higher as well.  They are led by quarterback...uhh...running back...ahhh...wide receiver...umm...wildcat quarterback Denard Robinson who's rushed for 116 yards per game and for seven touchdowns.

    South Carolina's leading rusher is still Marcus Lattimore.  After his tragic injury, Connor Shaw, Mike Davis and Kenny Miles have stepped up. 

    Kenny Miles has been excellent again in relief of Lattimore.  However, Michigan runs harder and more often than the Gamecocks. 

    They're the better running team. 

Passing Offense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 65th 229.5 Yards
    Michigan 95th 198.08 Yards

    While David Gardner has played pretty well as of late and Denard Robinson can make some impressive plays at times, the duo is dwarfed by the excellent 1-2 combo of Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson. 

    Shaw isn't as fast as Robinson, but he is an excellent runner and a much better passer.  Thompson may be the best passer of the group. 

    South Carolina is the better passing group.  When they are clicking, they perform like one of the best.  If they aren't, they play like one of the worst. 

    Let's see which team shows up. 

Total Offense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 87th 372.42 Yards
    Michigan 80th 385.42 Yards

    While Michigan holds the higher national rank, South Carolina may be the more balanced offense.  It's too close to call.  Michigan's a great running team and South Carolina is average in both phases of offense. 

    Who wins? 

    Michigan is better on paper, while South Carolina may have the higher score on the "eyeball" test.  The Gamecocks are inconsistent, so Michigan has to get the edge.

    It's close though.

Scoring Offense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 43rd 31.42 Points
    Michigan 57th 30.00 Points

    The balance of the Gamecocks is shown in the fact that the Gamecocks score a bit more than the Wolverines. 

    It's just a single point (and some change), but the Gamecocks and Wolverines have scored at different clips. 

    The Wolverines have gone over forty points four times.  They scored 63 points against the woeful 1-11 UMass Minutemen. 

    They've also been held to single digits twice.

    South Carolina has been more consistent.  They've only scored more than forty twice.  However, they've never been held to a single-digit scoring output.

    Michigan's 63-point outburst really boosted their points per game average. 

    South Carolina's offense scores more points.  Isn't that the point of the offense? 

Rushing Defense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 15th

    119.00 Yards

    Michigan 57th 156.00 Yards

    South Carolina's rushing defense is one of the best in the country.  The team is fast, physical, intelligent and capable of shutting down almost anyone. 

    Michigan's isn't nearly as good, but it is an average defensive unit. 

    Giving up 156 yards per game shows that the Gamecocks may be able to do exactly what they like to do (rush the football) on offense to these Wolverines. 

Pass Defense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 17th 193.25 Yards
    Michigan 2nd 155.17 Yards

    Michigan has an excellent pass defense.  They've got solid safeties and excellent corners.  They have the second-ranked pass defense in the entire country.  That's impressive. 

    South Carolina has a good pass defense.  It's ranked in the top twenty, even though they've faced quarterbacks like Aaron Murray, Tyler Bray and Tajh Boyd.  They can get burned at times and have given up a few big plays. 

    Still, one can't argue with being the second-best pass defense in the country. 

Sacks

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 5th 3.33 sacks
    Michigan 85th 1.58 sacks

    Jadeveon Freaking Clowney leads a team of sack artists that may very well be the best in the country.  With Clowney, Devin Taylor and the rest of the "sunshine sack band" rushing the quarterback, there isn't much any offensive lineman can do but contain them. 

    Michigan has had problems rushing the passer this year with roughly one-and-a-half sacks per game. 

    Sports Illustrated may have said it best. 

    "Wolverines coach Brady Hoke has a month to figure out how to keep Jadeveon Clowney from decapitating Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Steve Spurrier has a month to come up with one-liners about Hoke."

Sacks Allowed

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 104th 2.92 sacks
    Michigan 25th 1.25 sacks

    Here's where it gets interesting for me.  It seems that all of the advantages that one team has, the other team counters with an advantage of its own. 

    For example, you just read about South Carolina having an amazing defensive line. 

    Point.

    Michigan has a fantastic offensive line, only giving up 1.25 sacks per game and ranking 25th in the country. 

    Counterpoint. 

    The battle in the trenches may very well be the difference in this game.  If Michigan's offensive line can contain the pass rush of the Gamecocks, it could get ugly. 

    If they can't...it could also get ugly.

Scoring Defense

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 13th 17.42 points
    Michigan 16th 18.75 points

    Again, South Carolina's defense gives up fewer points. 

    With the incredible pass rush, excellent run defense and well-above average pass defense, South Carolina's crew easily dominates Michigan's D.

    Michigan hasn't really seen a passing game with the speed of the Gamecocks.  With Ace Sanders and company easily being the quickest group they've seen all year, they may struggle to contain the Gamecocks. 

Turnover Margin

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    Team National Rank Per Game Average
    South Carolina 48th .25
    Michigan 100th -.67

    Here's a big stat. 

    Michigan is prone to turning the ball over.  While South Carolina isn't perfect, they are much better than Michigan, who rest firmly in the bottom of the NCAA. 

    South Carolina does a great job taking the ball away from the opposition.  If Michigan doesn't hold on to the ball, the Gamecocks will win this game running away, and give Steve Spurrier another notch in his belt. 

Who Looks Better on Paper?

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    It's simple.  On paper, the 10-2 Gamecocks are superior to the 8-4 Michigan Wolverines.  Offensively, the Wolverines put up slightly better numbers rushing and on total offense, but the Gamecocks score more and are more balanced. 

    On defense, there isn't any contest.  The Gamecocks are superior to the Wolverines.  Michigan has a higher pass defense ranking; however, the Gamecocks have a top five rushing defense and a top 20 passing defense. 

    They also give up fewer points and create turnovers.  This game should be the Gamecocks all the way. 

    My prediction:

    South Carolina—31

    Michigan—17

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