ANN ARBOR — Michigan is bound for Florida.
The Wolverines (8-4) will play South Carolina (8-4) at noon New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, marking the sixth time in the past decade UM’s season will end in a Sunshine State bowl game.
“We’re excited as heck to be coming down to the Outback Bowl,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh said. “We’re excited about the competition against South Carolina. Hard football team. I’ve been watching them a little bit. They’re tough, they’re really well-coached.”
The Gamecocks, members of the Southeastern Conference’s East Division, lost to Clemson (34-10), Georgia (24-10), Texas A&M (24-17), and Kentucky (23-13). Six of their 12 games were decided by seven points or less.
“We’re excited about the Outback Bowl and coming to Tampa,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said. “It’s a great reward for our players, our staff, and our university. Our fans will travel well. We’re an up-and-coming team — 70 percent of our roster is freshmen and sophomores. We have a great opportunity sitting in front of us against the University of Michigan.”
The game is a rematch of the same bowl from New Year’s Day 2013, when South Carolina defeated the Brady Hoke-coached Wolverines 33-28. It was made famous by Jadeveon Clowney’s helmet-jarring hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
“On every big-hit video, that’s somewhere on there,” sophomore running back Chris Evans said.
The schools split a home-and-home series in the 1980s. South Carolina beat Michigan 17-14 in 1980 in Ann Arbor, while Michigan, quarterbacked by Jim Harbaugh, won at South Carolina 34-3 in 1985.
The Wolverines have made five appearances in the Outback Bowl -— 1987, 1993, 1996, 2002, and 2012 (Before 1995, it was known as the Hall of Fame Bowl).
“I don’t know a whole lot [about South Carolina], but it’s an exciting matchup,” said senior left tackle Mason Cole, a native of nearby Tarpon Springs, Fla. “Two big-time programs, an SEC team. It’s a great opportunity for us and going to be a great matchup.”
South Carolina is led by quarterback Jake Bentley, who’s completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 2,555 yards, 16 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Tailbacks A.J. Turner (517 yards, three touchdowns) and Tyson Williams (460 yards, one touchdown) have combined for 977 yards and four scores.
The Gamecocks have two 500-yard receivers — Bryan Edwards with 705 yards and four touchdowns and Hayden Hurst with 518 yards and two scores.
Defensive end D.J. Wonnum leads the defense with 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
South Carolina has the nation’s 109th-ranked offense and the 51st-ranked defense.
“We’ve gotta be better,” Harbaugh said. “That starts today. Having a great matchup against South Carolina really helps motivate us.”
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