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Outback Bowl for the Gamecocks
The Gamecocks are headed to the Outback Bowl.
South Carolina was selected to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida as the SEC representative to face off against the Michigan Wolverines in the annual SEC versus B1G matchup played on New Year's Day. The Gamecocks will be making their fourth trip to the Outback Bowl since 2001, where they are currently 2-1 in those games, with the most recent loss coming in 2009 at the hands of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
"We are fired up and elated to be going to the Outback Bowl. It is one of the best bowls in the country on January 1, in Tampa, Florida," said Coach Spurrier on Sunday night.
The loss to Iowa in the Gamecocks' most recent trip to the Outback Bowl was not a positive experience all-around. The bowl took a chance on a 7-5 South Carolina team that had been recently defeated at the hands of arch-rival Clemson and hoped for the same magic back in 2001 and 2002, when the Gamecocks traveled extremely well for the wins over Ohio State in both matchups.
The game itself nearly caused Steve Spurrier to re-evaluate his career at South Carolina, but fortunately for the Gamecocks, the Head Ball Coach decided to stick around and the Gamecocks have seen their greatest success since.
Spurrier admitted that this is a different team than what they had last time in the Outback Bowl.
"Four years ago when we went down there, we had a 7-5 record and had just been clobbered by Clemson," said Spurrier. "We were sort of in disarray. At that time, 7-5 got us in the Outback Bowl. We stunk it up and didn't play well. Hopefully, we're a different team. I feel we're a completely different team than we were four years ago. We're looking forward to going down there and competing at a very high level. Our more mature team with our senior leadership gives us a chance to represent South Carolina in a very positive way."
The matchup with Michigan gives South Carolina another high-profile opponent in a bowl game. The last two bowl game appearances have seen South Carolina take on Florida State and Nebraska, two of the powerhouses of college football. This time, South Carolina will face a Michigan team that is the all-time winningest program in college football. It's a challenge Spurrier and the rest of the Gamecocks are looking forward to on New Year's Day.
"If you beat or you get beat by Northwestern, you don't achieve as much as playing Michigan with their stature, tradition and reputation," Spurrier said when asked about the rumors of playing Northwestern over Michigan. "It's something special. This is the first time I've had the chance to compete against them. Their former coach Bo Schembechler, I'm a great follower and have great respect for him as one of the best coaches of all time. Some of his sayings I'll still use today. I have tremendous admiration for Michigan, Michigan football and the players that have played there."
Michigan enters this game at No. 19 in the rankings with an 8-4 overall record and a 6-2 record in the B1G. The four losses for the Wolverines are to Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. The Wolverines are led by Denard Robinson, who is the leading rusher and passer for Michigan, and head coach Brady Hoke, who is in his second year at Michigan.
South Carolina is 1-1 all-time against Michigan with the lone win coming in 1980 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
It's not the scenario most Gamecock fans envisioned when the season started, or much less when they were 6-0 and ranked in the top three in the country, but South Carolina is still playing in a New Year's Day bowl game and has a chance to win its 11th game and get a win over a big-name opponent.
"It's a big time opportunity for our university and our football program....I'm looking forward to getting our team ready. I believe our team will represent our university and our conference in a very positive way down there against Michigan. I know those guys will be fired up and ready to play. It should be a heck of a game and we're looking forward to it."
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