2018 Outback Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions Michigan vs. South Carolina
Michigan Wolverines vs. South Carolina Gamecocks, Monday Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET
This is a rematch of the 2012 Outback Bowl. In that game Jadeveon Clowney laid out Michigan running back Vincent Smith with a hit so stunningly vicious and totally perfect that I am certain you have seen it at least a dozen times, and I'm even more certain that you'll see it dozens more before the game starts. South Carolina won that game 33-28, but absolutely everything has changed for both programs since, so that result just isn't relevant here. It was one heck of a hit, though.
Outback Bowl Betting Storylines
Michigan is not where fans thought and hoped they would be three years into the Jim Harbaugh era - 8-4 and playing in the Outback Bowl. People not paying close attention, though, would miss that this was always going to be a rebuilding year. They were very raw on the offensive line, young in too many positions, and had lost 11 players to the draft last year. This is a team poised to be dramatically better next year, so if you are looking for a team down on themselves and floundering for an identity then you are looking in the wrong place.
Michigan got some good news this week. DT Maurice Hurst, a one-man wrecking crew who is a lock to be a first-round pick in the draft, had seriously considered skipping this game to get ready for the next chapter and avoid injury. He announced on Wednesday that he would be playing, though, and that's good news. This Michigan front is ridiculously good, and it keys a defense that is very elite - especially against the pass. The South Carolina offense has really struggled, ranking 108th nationally in totals yards and 99th in points scored. They struggled to score against their best opponents, and it is tough to imagine them scoring a lot of points here. Michigan has a simple recipe for success here, then - they will win this game if they can score some points.
Scoring hasn't always been easy for this offense. They have gone through three quarterbacks this year and have rarely looked competent. Their receivers are very young, and their running game has had to save them - when it has been able to do so behind an offensive line that struggled to find itself. Sophomore Brandon Peters was the best of the three quarterbacks, and after late-season injuries he's again healthy and will be starting in this one. He was not the starter heading into the season, so the extra bowl practices as the starter will really help him. He also should be particularly motivated in this one. Ole Miss starter and star Shea Patterson has transferred to Michigan for next year to escape the mess in Oxford. He is the presumed starter if he is healthy, but Harbaugh likes competition, and Peters will be given a shot to keep the job. A big showing here would be a first statement towards staking his claim.
Outback Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Michigan favored by 8.5 points, and that has since fallen to 7.5 points. A solid majority of bets have been on South Carolina, so the line movement is consistent with expectations. It seems unlikely, though, that we will see the key number of three come into play without significant news. The total opened at 43 and has fallen slightly to 42.5.
Michigan is 3-1-1 ATS in their last five games in January but just 2-6-1 ATS in their last nine against teams with winning records, and they are 1-4 ATS in their last five nonconference games. They have gone "over" the total in their last six against the SEC. South Carolina is 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games and 5-0 ATS in their last five neutral-site games. They are, however, just 2-6 ATS in their last eight nonconference games. They have gone "under" the total in eight of their last 11 games overall.
Michigan vs. South Carolina Outback Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
I can't even pretend to be unbiased in this one. I am all about Michigan, and have been for 35 years now. Even with that on the table, though, I really do feel like the Wolverines are the pick here. The defense is very stout, and the offense will improve heading into this game as they get healthy and have more chances to practice and prepare. They have more talent than the Gamecocks, and they will show it. Michigan is the pick against the spread.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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