In the wake of Brady Hoke's announcement that he has suspended three players, things just got that much more difficult for Michigan ahead of its showdown with the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
Starting cornerback J.T. Floyd, punter Will Hagerup and linebacker Brandin Hawthorne were all suspended for violating team rules, according to MLive.com.
Criticizing Hoke is a fruitless effort on a number of levels, but specifically because we don't know exactly what went down. Ultimately, this is Hoke's team—he can do what he wishes.
With that being said, there's no denying that this has a major impact on the Wolverines' chances of beating the Gamecocks.
Of the three players who will miss the game, the loss of Floyd is obviously the most difficult to overcome. Already missing Blake Countess—out for the season with a torn ACL, suffered against Alabama (h/t ESPN)—Michigan now turns to Courtney Avery to step in and replace Floyd.
Avery, who originally got the nod to replace Countess, was replaced himself by Raymon Taylor and is now thrust back into a starting role.
What happens if someone gets hurt? How is Michigan going to play nickel or dime packages?
Getting out of its base defense will mean relying upon Delonte Hollowell, Terry Richardson or recent corner convert Dennis Norfleet. However, none of them have much game experience.
Either that, or Michigan will move safeties out of position—or put a linebacker in the secondary.
None of those are ideal situations to be facing an SEC powerhouse under, even if it is a team like South Carolina, which doesn't have an explosive passing attack and ranks 66th in the nation through the air with 229.5 passing yards per game.
The loss of Hagerup, the Big Ten's Punter of the Year, will sting as well.
Michigan's punting duties now fall to Matt Wile, who has punted nine times in 2012, averaging a paltry 31.9 yards per punt—a far cry from the 45.1 averaged by Hagerup.
Giving South Carolina a short field to work with simply won't end well for Michigan's defense, which figures to be on the field more than it's accustomed to thanks to South Carolina's elite defensive unit causing major problems for Michigan when the Wolverines have the ball.
Michigan was a long shot to beat South Carolina before the suspensions were handed down.
Now, those chances have taken a giant step toward slim-to-none.