The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication
A bit of an added bonus to this bowl preview, along with the other five members of the “New Year’s Six” bowl games. In addition to the usual spread and total paragraphs we have in these previews, we’ll have a quote from one of the guys over at Sportsline, giving you some things they’re thinking about heading into these games. You’ll see it at the bottom of the post here and you can see more from the guys over at the site.
Michigan (7-5) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
Spread: Michigan -7.5
Spread: Michigan’s defense was really good again this year, despite being very young, and the offense once again struggled to get consistently good QB play. Granted, injuries play a large part in that with Wilton Speight, John O’Korn, and Brandon Peters getting injured at various points this season. The running game helped out with the trio of Karan Higdon, Chris Evans and Ty Isaac who combined for 361 carries, 2,178 yards and 19 touchdowns this season behind a mauling offensive line. The Wolverines averaged 186.3 yards per game on the ground on 4.5 yards per carry. So, despite not getting much from the passing game, Michigan was able to put up just under 26 points per game.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was enough considering the defense, despite having just one returning starter, managed to hold opponents to 18.2 points and 268.6 yards per game. The young recruits that Harbaugh has brought in over the past several years balled out with sophomores Devin Bush, Khaleke Hudson and Rashan Gary combining for 16.5 sacks. They were helped by some big performances from seniors stepping into the spotlight with Maurice Hurst, Mike McCray and Chase Winovich combining for 18.5 sacks and 43 tackles for loss. They were stifling against the pass, allowing opponents to complete just 47-percent of their passes for 142 yards per game.
That presents a tough task for a Gamecocks offense that was better through the air than on the ground (212 YPG to 128 YPG). Sophomore QB Jake Bentley completed 62 percent of his passes for over 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns on the year. He lost his biggest weapon, Deebo Samuel, early in the season, and the running backs have been banged up. The offense didn’t give the defense much margin for error this year, averaging just 24 points and 341 yards per game.
Thankfully for the offense, the defense was up to the task, holding opponents to 20 points and 374 yards per game. They held opponents under 4 yards-per-carry at 3.9, thanks largely to the play of guys like Skai Moore and T.J. Brunson. Sophomore defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum was a disruptive force piling up 13 tackles for loss and six sacks.
The Gamecocks were pretty good against the spread this year at 7-4-1, and they were very good as the underdog, going 6-1. Michigan, on the flip side, was 5-6-1, and just 4-4-1 as the favorites. South Carolina is really banged up, with two of their top three backs battling injuries. Still, with Brandon Peters recovering from a concussion, and a solid South Carolina defense, I think they can stay in this game. Michigan wins, but it’s closer than a TD. South Carolina +7.5
Total: Michigan was 6-5-1 against the total this year, while South Carolina checked in at 4-8. 43 seems low, until you consider that neither of these defenses gave up more than 20 points per game on average and the offenses cleared just 24-25. Under 43