ANN ARBOR — Just like the first time it faced a Southeastern Conference opponent this season, the Michigan football team is taking an occupational approach to its New Year’s Day bowl game, against another SEC opponent.
The No. 19 Wolverines face No. 10 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, exactly four months after it opened the season in Arlington, Texas, with a 41-14 loss to No. 2 Alabama.
Like their trip to Texas to face the Crimson Tide, the Wolverines consider their visit to Florida as a business trip, even at a time that brings holiday tidings and bowl-week diversions.
“That’s the tough part about bowl games, where there are so many distractions outside of it,” Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs said. “You want to go have a great time, because that’s what a bowl trip’s about, but at the end of the day it’s about winning the ball game, and that’s where you’ve got to keep your team focused.”
Michigan (8-4) practiced Tuesday and will again today before it leaves Sunday for Tampa, and Michigan plans to practice upon its arrival in preparation for the Gamecocks (10-2).
Since that September loss to the Crimson Tide, Michigan coach Brady Hoke has seen one definitive change in his program — specifically at quarterback, as Denard Robinson hasn’t thrown in a game since Oct. 27, when he injured the ulnar nerve in his throwing arm during a 23-9 loss at No. 23 Nebraska.
“With Denard getting beat up a little bit, it’s kind of changed us,” Hoke told Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation on Tuesday. “It’s made is into kind of a pro-style offense, which we were going to change to after Denard graduated.”
Hoke also said that he plans to play both Robinson and Devin Gardner against the Gamecocks (10-2).
“Having the ability to use Denard in some quarterback and some wide receiver and some running back [situations] gives us a little more of a different dimension,” Hoke said. “Getting the ball in his hands as much as we can, that’s where we’ve changed.”
But when it comes to those distractions that come with the sun, surf and warm weather, Kovacs believes that he has a responsibility in his final game with the Wolverines.
“As a captain, I’m sure I’m going to have to make sure the guys maintain their focus, because we’re obviously playing a very good team and you can’t trip up,” Kovacs said. "If you aren’t focused on the game, then you’re going to get beat. And that’s the last thing you want.”
KOVACS’ PLANS: Kovacs said Tuesday that he plans to pursue a future in professional football but said he has ‘no idea” of where he plans to train after the bowl game.
The Clay graduate didn’t hesitate to answer when asked if attempting a pro career was in his future.
“Yes,” Kovacs said. “Yes. Of course.”
ROBINSON CITED: Robinson, Michigan’s quarterback, pled guilty Monday to a charge of driving with a suspended or revoked license, according to court records.
ESPN reported that Robinson was cited for failing to signal and having an expired license tag Nov. 4 in Bath Township, Mich. Robinson initially pled not guilty to the charge but missed a Dec. 14 court date.
A bench warrant against Robinson was canceled Monday, as Robinson paid a fine and court costs. Robinson remains eligible to play in the Outback Bowl.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.
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