Michigan Football: What Must Happen for Big Blue to Upset South Carolina
It won't take a miracle for Michigan to win this bowl season, but it will require near flawless execution for Big Blue to emerge victorious on New Year's Day.
The No. 18 Michigan Wolverines have come up short in every big game they've played in this season, making them mighty underdogs in their upcoming Outback Bowl matchup with the No. 10 South Carolina Gamecocks.
From its season-opening blowout loss to Alabama to its season-ending defeat at Ohio State, Big Blue has been disappointing in big moments this season to say the least.
With one last shot at redemption looming, here we break down what must happen for Michigan to upend South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
Have a Huge Day on the Ground
The best aspect of Michigan's offense in 2012 is its running game. The Wolverines rank 13th in the nation in rushing yards per game (221.8) this season, and boast a gifted rusher in quarterback/running back Denard Robinson, who has over 1,100 yards and seven scores on the ground this year.
Over/Under 150.5 rushing yards for Michigan?
Robinson has rushed for more than 100 yards in five games this season and has gone for 200-plus in two games. The senior averaged a season-high 12.2 yards per carry in his most recent outing against Ohio State.
If Robinson can break loose for a couple of big runs or at least help the Wolverines stay ahead of the chains, Michigan's offense will remain on schedule, likely leading to points on the board.
That's easier said than done, however. Michigan's opponent, South Carolina, ranks 15th in the country defending the run and is only surrendering 119 yards on the ground per game coming into January's matchup.
Plus, the Gamecocks have given up only nine rushing touchdowns in 12 games this season, tying them with Michigan's defense.
Keep the Gamecocks Off the Board
It's no secret that Michigan's biggest strength is its defense which ranks sixth in terms of scoring, holding opponents to just 17.4 point per game this season. Therefore, the Wolverines will need a dominant effort from their D against South Carolina if they are to come away with an Outback Bowl win.
The good news for Greg Mattison's crew is that the Gamecocks' offense hasn't been too explosive this season.
Over/Under 17.4 points scored for South Carolina?
South Carolina is averaging 30.1 points per game in 2012, which is fewer than 42 other teams in college football this season. They shouldn't turn into an offensive juggernaut against Michigan, but if they do, the Wolverines will have virtually no shot to win.
The key for Big Blue is to keep South Carolina's big plays to a minimum and control the clock with its own offense. Michigan's defensive success will hinge on the offense's ability to keep the chains moving against a South Carolina defense that thrives in obvious passing situations.
The Gamecocks rank sixth in America with 40 total sacks this season. If Jadeveon Clowney and company get enough chances to rush the passer, Michigan will be in serious trouble.
Keeping South Carolina off the board is key, but it also involves being careful and consistent on offense.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.
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