Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)
Noon ET Jan. 1, Tampa (ESPN2)
Michigan -7.5, O/U: 42.5
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Michigan: Wolverine fans aren’t exactly thrilled with an 8-4 season, but the only surprising loss on Michigan’s schedule was Michigan State. And it looked less and less surprising with every passing week. Michigan’s other losses came to Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
Though those three losses were by bigger margins than expected. Penn State won 42-13, Wisconsin won 24-10 in a game that felt like much more than a two-touchdown defeat and the Buckeyes won 31-20 at Michigan.
The Week 1 win over Florida was a highlight, but no one anticipated the Florida dumpster fire that was to come.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks beat two bowl teams to start the season. South Carolina took down North Carolina State 35-28 in Week 1 and then dominated Missouri 31-13 at Mizzou.
The Gamecocks then lost at home by 10 to Kentucky and squeaked out a one-point win the next week over a 6-6 Louisiana Tech team. A loss to Texas A&M followed before three-straight wins. South Carolina then lost to two playoff teams by a combined 38 points. Georgia won 24-10 and Clemson won 34-10.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brandon Peters, QB, Michigan: Is this Peters’ last start? It may seem like a bizarre question, but it isn’t. Peters was pressed into duty after Wilton Speight’s injury and ineffectiveness by John O’Korn. Since O’Korn is a senior and Jim Harbaugh likes to play games with his roster decisions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see O’Korn take the first snap of the game.
Peters is the quarterback of the future on Michigan’s roster. But Michigan’s roster may not have its quarterback of the future. Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson is transferring to UM and we’d bet dollars to donuts that he’s eligible in 2018 because of Ole Miss’ NCAA sanctions. If he is, Patterson will likely be the starter next season.
Peters can put himself in a good position to compete with Patterson with a good game. He’s 37-64 for 486 yards and four touchdowns on the season. Those completion and yards per attempt marks are the best on the team and he’s thrown more TDs than O’Korn and Speight have as well.
Jake Bentley, QB, South Carolina: Bentley is the only QB who has attempted a pass for the Gamecocks in 2017. He’s 226-362 passing for 2,555 yards and 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Michigan would give a lot for that quarterback stability.
Bentley has stumbled down the stretch for the Gamecocks, at least in terms of turnovers. After throwing four picks in his first four games, Bentley went four games without an interception. And then he threw seven interceptions over the final four games. The only game in the final third of the season that didn’t include an interception was a win over FCS Wofford. If the underdog is going to pull the upset, Bentley has to be mistake free.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH
We can’t guarantee you’re going to see a moment like you did in 2013 when South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney destroyed Michigan running back De’Veon Smith. But you’ll probably see an epic sideline freakout at some point by either Harbaugh or South Carolina’s Will Muschamp. That’s worth it, right?
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
The Wolverines are looking to avenge a loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl a year ago. A win would make Harbaugh 2-1 in bowl games at Michigan and bring his career record at the school to 29-10. South Carolina is looking to win its first bowl game since the 2014 Independence Bowl. The Gamecocks lost last year’s Birmingham Bowl.
Nick: South Carolina 17, Michigan 13
Sam: Michigan 24, South Carolina 13
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