Michigan closes the football season when it plays South Carolina in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1, 2018. Find information below on game time, TV channel and how to watch online.
Both teams enter the bowl game with 8-4 records and are coming off home losses to rivals in their regular-season finales. Michigan lost to No. 5 Ohio State, 31-20, while South Carolina fell to No. 1 Clemson, 34-10. The teams have similar roster makeups in that the underclasses are the foundations of the teams, providing hope and higher expectations for 2018. Michigan is 1-2 all time against the Gamecocks. The programs split a pair of road victories in the 1980s, while South Carolina beat the Wolverines, 33-28, in the 2013 Outback Bowl on a 32-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Dylan Thompson to wide receiver Bruce Ellington with 11 seconds left in regulation.
Michigan-South Carolina football TV channel, time, watch online 2018 Outback Bowl
What: 2018 Outback Bowl
Who: Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
When: Jan. 1, 2018
Kickoff time: noon ET
TV channel: ESPN2
Watch online: WatchESPN
Michigan-South Carolina football odds 2018 Outback Bowl
Odds: Michigan is favored by 7.5 points and the over/under on points is 43, according to MyBookie.ag
Michigan-South Carolina preview, keys to 2018 Outback Bowl
1. Find out about Brandon Peters and wide receivers by opening up passing game
The quarterback battle for 2018 starts with the final game of the 2017 season. No one knows yet if Shea Patterson is going to be eligible to play next season after transferring from Mississippi. Regardless, Peters gets to set the tone for 2018 with this game. He did a good job after replacing John O’Korn in the second half against Rutgers on Oct. 28 and the next three games as the starter before suffering a concussion at Wisconsin on Nov. 18. Peters was efficient, if not spectacular, by completing 37 of 64 passes for 486 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. He did lose 1 fumble, but overall he put the Wolverines in good position offensively.
Peters and the offense have had five weeks to practice and show they can do more than plod down the field. The Wolverines averaged just 168.6 yards passing per game this season, ranking them 11th in the Big Ten, and didn’t top 200 yards through the air after a 28-10 win at Purdue on Sept. 23. South Carolina has allowed nearly 230 yards passing per game this season. Michigan didn’t have a single pass play of 50 yards this season, and none of its receivers had a 100-yard game. The wide receivers, as a group, became virtually invisible the last month of the season as tight ends Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry became the main targets.
If Michigan wants to win this game, the passing game must be a bigger factor in the offense.
2. Offensive line has to show more consistency
Left tackle Mason Cole is expected to start his 51st consecutive game for Michigan, a streak that began with the 2014 season opener against Appalachian State. That’s been the only consistent aspect of an offensive line that has taken care of business against lesser opponents but struggled to find a cohesive rhythm in losses to Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State.
South Carolina’s defense offers the Wolverines’ offensive line an opportunity to send Cole and fifth-year center Patrick Kugler off on a high note. The Gamecocks are allowing an average of 374.6 yards per game, and 5.3 yards per play, which is 88th in the country. In order for Peters and the offense to open up the passing game, the offensive line has to give him time to throw. Only Maryland and Illinois allowed more sacks per game than Michigan’s 2.8.
3. Play with attitude that this game is important, because it is.
This is not a throwaway bowl game. Both teams have something significant to play for beyond just winning. Michigan’s best win this season came against Purdue, a team that went 6-6 in the regular season before beating Arizona, 38-35, in the Foster Farms Bowl. After consecutive 10-win campaigns in the first two seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh, the Wolverines can notch their ninth victory of 2017 in this game. The program hasn’t had three consecutive 9-win seasons since 2002-04 when Lloyd Carr was the coach. The 2004 team that went 9-3 was the last Michigan team to win the Big Ten title.
Harbaugh has received a lot of criticism for his lack of success in big games, namely going 1-5 against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State. Michigan is 1-1 in bowl games under him, beating Florida, 41-7, in the 2016 Citrus Bowl before losing to Florida State, 33-32, in the Orange Bowl last season. He can’t do anything about the rival games until next season but adding a second bowl win in three seasons and improving to 3-0 against SEC schools would be a positive as the Wolverines start working on 2018.
Rachel Lenzi: Michigan 27, South Carolina 21
Kevin Goheen: Michigan 30, South Carolina 24