2013 Outback Bowl Michigan vs. South Carolina: Injuries Cheat Fans on Both Sides
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Important components to both offenses will be missed when the Michigan Wolverines step into the ring Jan. 1 with the South Carolina Gamecocks during the Outback Bowl in Tampa.
Fitz Toussaint wasn't everything he could have been this year for the Wolverines, but there were times when he showed promise (92 yards against Northwestern) prior to breaking his leg in his team's 42-17 victory over Iowa. The junior could have been a possible draft target in 2013 if not for his unfortunate season-ending injury and subpar fall.
He was expected to be a dominant force on the ground, just like he was as a sophomore when he rushed for 1,041 yards (187 attempts). However, he wasn't near that level in 2012, rushing for just 541 yards (130 carries).
Nonetheless, Toussaint would have likely given No. 18 Michigan a small chance to run shoulder-to-shoulder with No. 10 South Carolina, which will be without star speedster Marcus Lattimore.
A junior like Toussaint, Lattimore's year came to a crashing end after a gruesome leg break during South Carolina's 38-35 win over Tennessee. And, like Toussaint, Lattimore had draft potential— a whole lot of draft potential, actually.
According to reports, he's expected to enter the NFL Draft despite injury.
Although both tailbacks were sidelined before their teams were put together in the Outback Bowl, college football fans should feel a little cheated in knowing they're missing out on Toussaint vs. Lattimore.
Face it, the Wolverines-Gamecocks battle isn't exactly a marquee Big Ten-SEC duel. Not that Michigan really wanted any part of Georgia—Wolverines fans probably didn't, either—in the Capital One Bowl (a game they were once forecast to play), but spectators are essentially getting damaged teams that could have exploded for quite the show with fully-intact rosters.
Which player will be missed most?
The fact that senior Denard Robinson probably won't start at quarterback also throws a speck of mud on the game. He'll likely line up as a slot or running back while Devin Gardner heads the Wolverines offense.
Robinson hasn't been Michigan's primary quarterback since being knocked out during a 23-9 loss to Nebraska, a game in which he fell awkwardly on his right elbow, suffered nerve damage in his right elbow and lost the ability to comfortably throw.
Don't forget about Gamecocks signal-caller Connor Shaw, either. His status is questionable for the Outback Bowl due to a foot issue.
Don't take this as a knock on either team's backups.
Michigan can still run the ball effectively with Thomas Rawls, a sophomore who actually outperformed a healthy Toussaint on several occasions. Vincent Smith and Justice Hayes complement Rawls, so don't rule them out as contributors come Jan. 1.
Dylan Thompson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns in South Carolina's 27-17 win over Clemson—he could do the same against Michigan, so all is not bleak for the Gamecocks.
The SEC is the standard by which other conferences in the world of college football are measured with. The Big Ten wasn't the SEC this season, let's just say that.
Now, here we have a good but mildly banged-up Big Ten squad going against an exceptional SEC team that's missing two of its stars.
Cheated, I tell you.
We've been cheated.
Follow Bleacher Report's Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81
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