Outback Bowl Preview: South Carolina and Michigan Still Have Plenty to Prove

Kevin C. Cox

The Gamecocks and the Wolverines both come into this game with one marquee win and very little else bolstering their shiny records

Outback Bowl: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Michigan Wolverines, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

If there's an SEC team that has somewhat personified the spirit of New Year's Day over the last few years, it's been South Carolina. The Gamecocks' fans and administrators, after all, spent years telling each other that they would take the necessary steps to turn their mediocre program into something worthy of its membership in the SEC. And year after year, the promises seemed to fade like so many New Year's resolutions.

Until a few years ago. Perhaps because of the slumps by Georgia and Florida, perhaps because of the years of work that Steve Spurrier put in, and perhaps because of a combination of that and a few other things, South Carolina actually begin to win. Quite a bit. Nine games and an SEC East title in 2010, 11 games for the first time in school history in 2011, and 10 games so far in 2012. That is already, as you probably guessed, the winningest three years in Gamecocks history.

So is there really that much for South Carolina to prove today against Michigan? Maybe so. After all, for all the success South Carolina had this season, the October leveling of Georgia and the season-ending defeat of Clemson remain the only victories over a ranked team. And there are still going to be the critics that will question whether Spurrier has really changed the culture in Columbia or just come along at an opportune time.

Michigan's pedigree might be a bit more distinguished than South Carolina, but the Wolverines face some of the same questions. With the exception of the overtime win against Northwestern, none of Michigan's victories this season particularly stand out. The marquee names on the slate -- from Alabama to Notre Dame to Nebraska to Ohio State -- all won when they played the Wolverines.

There's another similarity here: Neither of these offenses is likely to light the world on fire. But South Carolina has the edge on defense and will have Connor Shaw back after he missed the Clemson game. And they still have that guy by the name of Jadeveon Clowney. Both teams might have a lot to prove in this game, but the Gamecocks seem to have a slightly better ability to prove it.

South Carolina 24, Michigan 20

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