Associated Press

Michigan spoils Big Ten’s perfect bowl season with Outback Bowl meltdown

15 Comments

The Big Ten did not have a perfect 2017-18 bowl season. Though, to be fair, there are plenty in the Midwest who might argue that winning every bowl game except the one Michigan and Jim Harbaugh compete in is actually the perfect bowl season. However, South Carolina’s 26-19 Outback Bowl comeback over Michigan spoiled the league’s shot at winning every bowl game in a season in which it was shut out of the College Football Playoff for the first time in the 4-year history of the system.

And, like many defeats in the 3-year Harbaugh era, it was one in which the Wolverines grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

Quinn Nordin‘s fourth field goal of the afternoon pushed Michigan’s lead to 19-3 with 5:42 to play in the third quarter; considering the state of South Carolina’s offense to that point, Nordin’s kick relegated the Outback Bowl to “I’ll check back in if something happens” for New Year’s Day viewers with the Citrus and Peach bowls on simultaneously.

Needless to say, something happened.

The Gamecocks moved 77 yards in a half-dozen plays, finally crossing pay dirt on a 17-yard Rico Dowdle option rush. A failed 2-point conversion kept Michigan’s lead at two scores at 19-9. However, Michigan immediately gave the ball back on a botched 3rd-and-1 exchange, and one play later Jake Bentley pulled South Carolina within 19-16 on a 21-yard touchdown strike to Bryan Edwards.

Michigan punted on its next possession, and South Carolina took the lead on a 53-yard strike from Bentley to Shi Smith. Trailing 23-19 early in the fourth quarter, Michigan penetrated South Carolina’s red zone with a chance to re-gain the lead but, flushed to his left, Brandon Peters elected to force a 3rd-and-goal pass from the 5-yard line rather than accepted defeat and bring on the field goal time. It was intercepted by JaMarcus King in the end zone.

Michigan’s defense immediately forced a three-and-out, but the ensuing punt was muffed. Taking over at the Michigan 14, South Carolina bit off 90 seconds of the remaining 5:15, taking a touchdown lead on a 22-yard Parker White field goal.

The maize and blue took over at their 25 with 3:42 and needing a touchdown to force overtime, but could not get as much as a completed pass. Peters fired four straight incomplete passes. White missed a 48-yard field goal that would have ended the game at the 1:43 mark of the fourth quarter, and Michigan marched near midfield with one final chance to tie the game. However, Peters’s 4th-and-1 pass was intercepted with 1:05 to play, thereby ending the game.

The loss concludes a bitterly disappointing season in which Michigan accomplished nothing of significance. The Wolverines went 8-5 but beat just one opponent with a winning record, 7-6 Purdue. Most importantly, Michigan did not find a quarterback answer for 2018. Peters’s performance — he was 20-of-44 for 186 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions — proves that the answer lies in either redshirt freshman Dylan McCaffrey or Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson, assuming the NCAA grants him eligibility.

South Carolina (9-4) has no such issues. The ‘Cocks won 15 games in Will Muschamp‘s first two seasons, something only two other South Carolina coaches have done. And in Bentley — 19-of-32 for 239 yards with two touchdowns and one interception — the Gamecocks have their quarterback of the present and the future.

No. 3 Clemson looks like the new No. 1 in pummeling No. 24 South Carolina

Associated Press
5 Comments

No. 1 Alabama lost on the road today. No. 2 Miami lost on the road on Friday. No. 3 Clemson went on the road… and did not come close to losing. The Tigers led throughout and dominated in-state rival No. 24 South Carolina, winning 34-10 in Columbia.

The win gives Clemson four straight victories in the season and two straight blowouts, following last season’s 56-7 beatdown in Death Valley. It was also Dabo Swinney‘s 100th win in his 129th game as Clemson’s head coach. More importantly, the win completes Clemson’s third straight regular season of at least 11 victories and sends the Tigers into next week’s ACC Championship opposite Miami in prime position to defend its national championship.

After downing a punt at the 1-yard line, Clemson’s Ryan Carter capitalized on a miscommunication by South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley as he grabbed an uncontested pass at the South Carolina 12 and waltzed into the end zone for the game’s first score.

That was the only score of the first quarter, but Clemson’s offense got in on the action in the second quarter with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that was keyed by two big Kelly Bryant passes and completed with a 1-yard Tavien Feaster run with 8:12 left in the first half.

Clemson put together a similar drive to close the half, moving 79 yards in 10 snaps, 40 of which came on a deep ball to Tee HigginsHunter Renfrow notched his second touchdown grab of the season, a 4-yarder, with 1:59 left in the half. Alex Spence‘s PAT was wide left.

The Tigers put their orange paws on South Carolina’s throat in the third quarter with a 61-yard touchdown strike from Bryant to Kelly, and then a 5-yard Travis Etienne run to push the lead to 34-0.

South Carolina (8-4) got on the board with a 40-yard Parker White field goal after a Bryant interception and then a 38-yard toss from Bentley to Bryan Edwards with 2:44 left in the game. Bentley concluded his second Cocks-Tigers game hitting 16-of-29 passes for just 126 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

Bryant hit 23-of-34 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and a pick while rushing 10 times for 26 yards. Seven Tigers runners combined to carry 41 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns, more than doubling South Carolina’s 81 rushing yards.