Michigan Football: Players That Must Step Up to Help Team Win Outback Bowl

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2012

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 20: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines runs 44 yards during the the fourth quarter of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Wolverines defeated the Spartans 12-10. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines have put together a solid season, but college football teams always want to end the year with a big bowl win.

This might be difficult for the Wolverines, who will have to face the 10-2 South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl. The SEC powerhouse finished in the Top 10 in the BCS and will be a difficult matchup on offense and defense.

Still, Michigan has the ability to pull off the upset if it gets big contributions from some of its top players. This group will be extremely important as the team tries to end the season on a high note.


Devin Gardner

After Denard Robinson suffered an elbow injury, Devin Gardner came in at quarterback and did not disappoint. 

He is a much more prolific passer than his predecessor, averaging 251.3 passing yards per game. On the other side, Robinson did not have a 200-yard passing game since Week 3.

Gardner gives the offense more dimensions, which will be vital if the team wants to score on the No. 13 defense in the nation.

While the junior has been accurate for the most part, one key will be to avoid turnovers. He has thrown an interception in each of his four games this year. This will have to stop for the team to have a chance of being successful on offense.


Taylor Lewan

Although Taylor Lewan has plenty of experience at tackle, he has an incredibly difficult assignment in this game.

He will have to block All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, one of the best players in the nation at any position. 

Lewan is an All-American himself, but he has not faced anyone of Clowney's speed and size from the position. The end had 4.5 sacks on the last game of the regular season to bring his season total to 13, good enough for second in the nation.

If the senior tackle is able to keep Clowney from making an impact, it will go a long way toward winning this game.


Jake Ryan

Michigan has a solid defense, but it is unable to reach elite status without a consistent pass rush.

This is where Jake Ryan must excel. He has been solid all year with 14.5 tackles for a loss, but he has only taken down opposing quarterbacks four times. Unfortunately, this is tied for the team lead.

Ryan is also the team's leading tackler, so the Wolverines cannot afford to simply blitz him on every play. However, he needs to make his presence known in the backfield.

South Carolina will not be able to move the football if the defense continues to penetrate into the backfield. The junior linebacker will be a big part of this happening.


Denard Robinson

Even if Denard Robinson does not throw a single pass during the bowl game, he will still make a big impact. He is simply too important to this offense to be ignored.

The quarterback was not only the leading rusher on Michigan this season, but he had twice as many yards as Fitzgerald Toussaint, who is second on the squad.

Robinson has an elite skill that no one else on the team possesses. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the field, and he needs to get that opportunity on New Year's Day.

In reality, the Wolverines might not have enough on offense to win without a big day from the senior.