Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
Michigan’s Maurice Hurst (73)
OUTBACK BOWL STORYLINES
1. Michigan looks for a positive end to what has been a difficult season when it faces South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa, Fla. The Wolverines were forced to start three different quarterbacks over the course of the campaign as Wilton Speight missed eight games with a fractured vertebrae and Brandon Peters sat out the loss to Ohio State with a concussion en route to a four-loss regular season. Peters has been given the green light to return and will start against South Carolina as Michigan hopes to avenge a 33-28 setback to the Gamecocks in the 2013 Outback Bowl.
2. South Carolina hopes a new offensive playcaller will solve its scoring woes after the Gamecocks finished 98th nationally in points (24.1) and 108th in yards per game. Kurt Roper was let go on Dec. 6 – just over a week after South Carolina was held to 207 yards in the 34-10 loss to top-ranked Clemson – and Bryan McClendon, who doubles as the wide receivers coach, will be tasked with solving a stout Michigan defense, which finished fifth nationally in tackles-for-loss (103) and seventh in sacks per game (3.25). “I’m excited about having Bryan McClendon calling plays for the bowl game,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp told reporters. “Certainly he’s going to have an opportunity to be our coordinator going forward.”
3. The Wolverines have fared well against SEC opponents, compiling a 25-8-1 record, including two straight victories by an average margin of 25 points. The Gamecocks overcame a slew of injuries and hope to cap off an encouraging season by winning nine games for the first time since 2013. Michigan defensive tackle Maurice Hurst, who was named a unanimous All-American after registering 13 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks, will play his final collegiate game before preparing for the NFL draft as will South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst after earning first team SEC honors with 41 receptions for 518 yards.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN2. LINE: Michigan -7.5
ABOUT MICHIGAN (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten): Speight, who announced his decision to transfer from the program one day after Michigan’s 31-20 loss to fifth-ranked Ohio State, played the first four games of the season before suffering a back injury on Sept. 23, and leaves Ann Arbor with a 14-3 record as a starting quarterback. Peters threw for 486 yards and four touchdowns in four full games before he was knocked out in the second half of the 24-10 setback to Wisconsin, but has been medically cleared to play against South Carolina. Karan Higdon had a breakout year as he gained 929 yards on the ground to go along with 11 touchdowns and needs 71 yards to become Michigan’s first running back with 1,000 yards since Fitzgerald Toussaint in 2011.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (8-4, 5-3 SEC): Jake Bentley threw for 2,555 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with six rushing scores while Bryan Edwards had a stellar sophomore season by hauling in a team-high 59 passes for 705 yards and four TDs. A.J. Turner, who led the team with 517 rushing yards suffered an ankle injury against Clemson but is expected to play in the Outback Bowl as is freshman wide receiver Shi Smith, who has recovered from a leg injury which caused him to miss the loss to the Tigers. Linebacker Skai Moore was selected to the All-SEC first team by the coaches after leading the Gamecocks with 88 tackles while defensive back Jamyest Williams was selected to the All-SEC freshman team.