Michigan and South Carolina travel to Tampa, Florida to compete in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day. The 10th-ranked Gamecocks will have their hands full with the 18th-ranked Wolverines, as they will have to be weary of both of Michigan’s quarterbacks.
Senior quarterback Denard Robinson hasn’t played particularly well this season. He had 1,319 passing yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. This is a huge decrease compared to last year when he had 2,173 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
However, Robinson has been dealing with injuries that kept him out of games against Minnesota and Northwestern. When he is on the field, defenses take notice and focus on him most of the game.
As a result, head coach Brady Hoke has used Robinson solely in the running game. In Michigan’s last two games, he did not throw a pass, but he rushed 23 times for 220 yards and a touchdown.
Devin Gardner has been quiet for most of the season. He made his first appearance in the game against Minnesota. He completed 12-of-18 passes for 234 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for 21 yards and a touchdown. The junior continued against Northwestern as he threw for 286 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He ran for 47 yards and two more touchdowns.
Gardner remained the quarterback upon Robinson’s return, and the team made it work. In the Week 12 game against Iowa, Gardner threw 314 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He rushed for 37 yards and three touchdowns. Robinson also had 98 rushing yards.
The two-headed monster at quarterback will be tough for South Carolina to stop. In four games, Gardner has 1,005 passing yards and eight touchdowns. Robinson has proved that he can run the ball effectively. He has 1,166 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, the highest for the Wolverines.
The Wolverines need to take advantage of the Gamecocks rush defense. Michigan rushes for 187.3 yards per game, 39th in the country.
In their first six games, South Carolina’s defense allowed 503 rushing yards and three touchdowns, leading them to a six-game winning streak. In the next six games, they allowed 925 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Brady Hoke has two explosive weapons at his fingertips in Robinson and Gardner. While Robinson may not be able to throw like he used to due to nerve damage, he can gash the South Carolina defense with his feet. Gardner can throw the ball, accurately I might add. He had a 63.7 completion percentage and 11.17 yards per attempt.
Despite the success of Gardner at quarterback, Michigan’s best chance at beating South Carolina will have to be with the legs of Denard Robinson.