South Carolina is headed to a familiar postseason destination to play an unfamiliar, and iconic, opponent.
The No. 11 Gamecocks will play No. 19 Michigan in the Outback Bowl, which will kick off at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla. The game is played in Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
South Carolina has played the Wolverines twice, winning 17-14 in 1980 and losing 34-3 in 1985. Michigan is the winningest program in college football history with 903 wins and 313 losses.
For most of the last week, the Gamecocks had expected to be matched against Northwestern, which like Michigan plays in the Big Ten conference, and South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was glad to be playing the Wolverines.
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“Northwestern is a heck of a team, but if you beat Northwestern or you get beat by Northwestern, you don’t achieve quite as much as by playing Michigan,” Spurrier said Sunday night. “When you play a team with the stature and tradition and reputation of the University of Michigan, it’s something special.”
It will be Spurrier’s first game against the Wolverines.
The Gamecocks (10-2) played in the Outback Bowl in 2009, 2002 and 2001. The team beat Ohio State in 2001 and 2002 but lost to Iowa in 2009 to cap perhaps the most disappointing season in Spurrier’s tenure at South Carolina. The Gamecocks fell to 7-6 with that loss, but they are 30-9 since that game.
“We are looking forward to representing our university in a very positive way,” Spurrier said. “We didn’t do it the last time down there, but we are different players, different coaches, I think a completely different team than we were four years ago. That doesn’t mean we are going to beat Michigan. They are an outstanding team.”
The Wolverines finished the regular season 8-4. Their losses came against No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 23 Nebraska. They are led by dual threat quarterback Denard Robinson, who threw for 1,319 yards and rushed for 1,166 yards in 10 games. He missed two games due to injury.
“I don’t know that we’ve faced a guy quite like him that can throw and run,” Spurrier said.
This will be Michigan’s fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, where they are 3-1 all-time. The Wolverines are 23-7-1 all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference.
“We are excited to represent the Big Ten in the Outback Bowl,” Wolverines coach Brady Hoke said in a statement released Sunday by the school. “The Outback Bowl organization and those associated with the Tampa community run an outstanding bowl game. The SEC is an excellent conference and we look forward to the challenge of facing them on New Year’s Day.”