TAMPA — It’s been a disappointing season for Michigan. There’s no other way to cut it. One year after coming within inches of a possible College Football Playoff berth, the Wolverines slid back to an 8-4 regular season. A victory against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl would help ease the pain and send UM into an all-important offseason with an upsurge of momentum.
Michigan quarterback Brandon Peters throws during the Rutgers game earlier this year. He will return to the starting lineup for the first time since Nov. 18 in the Outback Bowl.
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Here are three keys to the game against the Gamecocks:
1. Will Brandon Peters be rusty?: When Peters takes his first snap in the Outback Bowl, 45 days will have elapsed since he last played in a live game. Peters was concussed Nov. 18 at Wisconsin and wasn’t cleared to play the next week at Ohio State. The arrival of Shea Patterson could help against South Carolina because Peters is using the game as an opportunity to show his teammates, coaches, and a restless fanbase he can provide the Wolverines with what they covet at the quarterback position.
2. Turnovers create trouble: South Carolina is one of the most opportunistic teams in the country. The Gamecocks rank 17th nationally in turnover margin. They led the SEC with 23 turnovers gained, intercepting 12 passes and recovering 11 fumbles. Michigan turned the ball over 16 times during the regular season, including crippling miscues in three of their four losses against Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State.
3. The last stand: Once again, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown molded his unit into one of the best in college football. UM ranks in the top 10 in almost every national defensive category. The Outback Bowl will be the final game for this group to flex its muscles. And one glance at South Carolina’s feeble offense details how big a mismatch the Gamecocks vs. the Michigan defense really is. South Carolina averages 340 yards and 24 points per game. The Gamecocks also will have a first-time play-caller because offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was fired in early December.
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