WHO: Michigan (8-4) vs. South Carolina (8-4)
WHAT: The 32nd Outback Bowl
WHEN: January 1st at noon ET on ESPN2
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida
THE SKINNY: The last time these two teams met in the Outback Bowl, Jadeveon Clowney delivered a hit that will live in highlight reel infamy. While this year’s edition may not have a player at the same level of the No. 1 pick, it could nevertheless be quite an interesting matchup between a pair of head coaches and programs who are hoping for a bit of a breakthrough in securing a ninth win.
Expect a heavy dose of the run game either way as both teams love to establish things between the tackles and milk the clock. Wolverines tailback Karan Higdon has a chance to crack the 1,000-yard mark with a solid effort in this one and he’ll likely be the focus of the offensive attack with quarterback Brandon Peters still a bit of a question mark despite a solid debut in difficult circumstances.
Michigan’s offense is not the horse they rode in on, however, as coordinator Don Brown’s defense is the real reason Jim Harbaugh’s side is a dangerous one by allowing just 18.3 points per game and ranking third in the country in total defense. They’re led up front by the terrific defensive line duo of Maurice Hurst and Rashan Gary, who are two of the best in the game and capable of wreaking havoc no matter if it’s run or pass.
All things considered, South Carolina enters their bowl as a bit of an overachiever with eight wins. Their best playmaker (WR Deebo Samuel) was lost in September and offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was fired after the team ranked 98th in the country in scoring. Still, there’s plenty of talent left on the roster for Will Muschamp and company and quarterback Jake Bentley can find guys downfield as well as beat you scrambling.
Given how intense both head coaches are, motivation and playing hard probably won’t be an issue in this one. The Wolverines enter as the much more talented team though and should have the upper hand over a Gamecocks lineup that is still a bit in flux. Both sides are aiming to have a big 2018 given what players are returning but a big bowl win under the sun might go a little longer for Harbaugh’s group in what could be a bit a low-scoring affair.
THE PICK: Michigan 27, South Carolina 16
Those of a certain age may look back on going to grade school and think fondly on those rare days where the regular teacher was out and a substitute filled in. For many around the country, that often meant watching a movie or two for class instead of doing, well… actual work.
If you happen to be a kindergarten student at James M. Brown Elementary School in Walhalla, South Carolina though, having a substitute teacher for class has been taking on a whole different meaning the past few weeks. That’s because 300-pound Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has been moonlighting as a sub and trying to corral little kids on a much gentler scale than he corrals quarterbacks on Saturdays in the fall.
“It was fun, but took a lot out of me,” Wilkins told ESPN earlier this week. “I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Kindergarten Cop’ with all those little kids. Talk about energy, but it was a real cool experience.”
Perhaps the most accurate line from Chris Low’s excellent story on Wilkins’ substitute duties came by one young pupil who muttered, ‘That’s one big mister.’ The senior All-American is only getting $80 for a day’s worth of work with the kids but seeing the massive defensive tackle walk into a room is probably as priceless for Wilkins as it is for those at the school.
How much is an undefeated season worth for a program? If you ask the most recent team to accomplish the feat, the answer is a lot of dough. Like nine figures worth.
According to a release by UCF, the school commissioned a report compiled by Joyce Julius & Associates on just how much value they got from their football team’s perfect season that was capped off with an AAC conference title and a Peach Bowl victory over Auburn:
When combining national television game broadcasts, television news coverage, print media, Internet news and social media, the value of the exposure for UCF Football from Nov. 17, 2017-Jan. 31, 2018 was $171,079,417.47. Combined, the entirety of the 2017 UCF Football season’s exposure was valued at well over $200 million.
Further more, the study found roughly 160,000 total social media posts “generated nearly 655 million impressions with an estimated exposure value of $17,696,403.81. Of the 160,792 posts the study found, over 138,000 of them were on Twitter.” No word how many of those tweets were fans ridiculing the school for claiming a national title or just angry Alabama supporters yelling back about the sport’s true champion last season.
There’s no doubt that the Knights’ story and resulting publicity from claiming to be “national champions” was worth plenty to the school, but it seems like a bit of fuzzy math to claim all of $200 million worth of exposure even with new state license plates and trips to Disney World. One wonders if UCF can claim low nine figures from a “championship” run you’ve got to think Nick Saban’s actual title-winning Alabama team might be able lay claim to more than double that amount for winning the College Football Playoff after all.
It’s never good for a head coach to get a call that one of his players was arrested and equally bad when the player in question hasn’t even arrived on campus. Such is the case for Louisville coach Bobby Petrino as one of his recent signees was arrested by police on Wednesday.
The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that four-star cornerback Jairus Brents was cited for speeding by local police and then was arrested due to an outstanding warrant that was the result of a shoplifting citation from shortly before National Signing Day. He was reportedly going 86 mph in a 55 mph zone and was also cited by police for reckless driving and driving without a license.
While that’s not great to say the least, here’s what the Courier-Journal says about the reason for Brents’ actual arrest:
He was arrested because of a warrant stemming from an alleged incident on Jan. 26. According to police, Brents and an “unknown (co-defendant)” took five tank-top shirts and four boxer briefs from the JCPenney store at St. Matthews Mall. Brents’ court date was set for March 5, but court records show that he was not present.
Louisville has not released a statement about the matter yet but Brents is still expected to remain a member of the Cardinals’ recruiting class. In addition to being rated as a four-star defensive back by 247Sports, the local star was also listed as the state’s No. 2 prospect in the class of 2018.
Either way, not the way one wants to begin a career in college football… before it really even begins.
Spring practice has arrived in Waco and things are probably not off to the smooth start that Baylor head coach Matt Rhule was hoping for after a turbulent 2017 campaign.
In addition to suspending two players amidst sexual assault allegations, the program is dealing with being a coach short on the field for the next several weeks. That’s because offensive line coach George DeLeone is recovering from a broken hip and the ensuing surgery, resulting in former Bears quarterback Shawn Bell stepping into his spot to coach the big boys up front.
“And it’s because of his character and because of his patience and never really questioning anything,” Rhule told the school’s website of the change. “Luckily, there’s no egos with anybody there. I think George kind of hand-picked Shawn, saying he’s the right guy.”
Bell is currently an offensive analyst for the program and was hired when Rhule first arrived in Waco after several years as a head coach in the high school ranks in the state of Texas.