Posts Tagged ‘SEC’
Prior to the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday night, all signs pointed towards Michigan facing probable Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M in the Capital One Bowl. But the stunning 70-31 beatdown that Nebraska took at the hands of Wisconsin changed that. Instead, it’s the Cornhuskers who are heading to Orlando and Michigan gets a more favorable matchup against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
|8-4 (6-2)||Tuesday, Jan. 1 – 1pm – ESPN||10-2 (6-2|
Steve Spurrier’s squad went 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC, finishing third in the SEC East behind Georgia and Florida. The only two losses were in back to back weeks to Florida and LSU, coming on the heels of a 35-7 win over Georgia – the Bulldogs’ only loss prior to the SEC Championship game. The loss to LSU was close (23-21) when the Gamecocks had climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings. The following week, however, SC was throttled by Florida 44-11. Despite allowing 44 points, Carolina’s defense held Florida to just 183 total yards.
The only other ranked team South Carolina beat was then-No. 11 Clemson in the final week of the season, 27-17. The rest of non-conference schedule featured 8-4 East Carolina, 3-9 UAB, and 9-3 Wofford – an FCS school.
With a very tough bowl slate due to Ohio State and Penn State being ineligible for postseason play, the Big Ten doesn’t stand much of a chance this bowl season, but can Michigan do its part? Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
|South Carolina 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison|
|South Carolina | Michigan||Rank||Opponent||Rank|
|Points Per Game||31.4 | 30.0||43 | 57||17.4 | 18.8||13 | 16|
|Rushing Yards||1,715 | 2,248||1,428 | 1,872|
|Rush Avg. Per Game||142.9 | 187.3||84 | 39||119.0 | 156.0||15 | 57|
|Avg. Per Rush||3.6 | 4.9||3.1 | 3.8|
|Passing Yards||2,754 | 2,377||2,319 | 1,862|
|Pass Avg. Per Game||229.5 | 198.1||65 | 95||193.2 | 155.2||17 | 2|
|Total Offense||4,469 | 4,625||3,747 | 3,734|
|Total Off Avg. Per Game||372.4 | 385.4||87 | 80||312.2 | 311.2||12 | 11|
|Kick Return Average||20.9 | 22.1||73 | 54||23.5 | 23.1||97 | 92|
|Punt Return Average||13.4 | 8.6||15 | 63||4.0 | 7.6||12 | 59|
|Avg. Time of Possession||30:25 | 29:31||48 | 75||29:35 | 30:29|
|3rd Down Conversion Pct||43% | 51%||43 | 6||36% | 36%||35 | 33|
|Sacks By-Yards||40-253 | 19-166||5 | 85||35-242 | 15-109||104 | 25|
|Touchdowns Scored||49 | 45||24 | 23|
|Field Goals-Attempts||11-15 | 15-18||14-17 | 21-28|
|Red Zone Scores||(38-46) 83% | (38-41) 93%||45 | 4||(28-39) 72% | (33-40) 82%||14 | 69|
|Red Zone Touchdowns||(30-46) 65% | (26-41) 63%||(17-39) 44% | (18-40) 45%|
On paper, Michigan and South Carolina are pretty comparable. Both have average offenses and very good defenses. Michigan scores 30 points per game, while SC have averaged a little over a point more. Carolina gives up 17.4 points per game, while Michigan gives up a little over a point more. Michigan has the better rushing game, the ‘Cocks have the better passing game, but total yards are only 13 more in Michigan’s favor. Defensively, the two allow nearly the exact same number of yards per game – Michigan gives up one yard less. It’s hard to get more evenly matched.
South Carolina’s offense was dealt a huge blow on Oct. 27 against Tennessee when star running back Marcus Lattimore suffered a season-ending knee injury – for the second straight season. He had 662 yards and 11 touchdowns on 4.6 yards per carry prior to the injury. His replacement, senior Kenny Miles, has averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in his stead. However, that was helped out by a 127-yard game against FCS Wofford. In the three games against BCS competition, that number dips to 2.9.
Quarterback Connor Shaw is the team’s third leading rusher with 339 yards on 112 carries and has completed 67.3 percent of his passes. He’s only averaging 173.2 yards per game through the air, which ranks 11th in the SEC, but he does have a 15-7 touchdown to interception ratio. Against Tennessee, he threw for 356 yards and three touchdowns, but against Florida he was held to just 72 yards on 9-of-20 passing. However, Shaw didn’t start the team’s final game against Clemson due to a foot injury. That went to sophomore Dylan Thompson who chucked it up 41 times for 310 yards and three touchdowns. Shaw will likely start against Michigan.
The receiving corps is mainly a two-man show with Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders getting the most receptions – 38 and 36, respectively. Ellington had back to back 100-yard games against Tennessee and Arkansas, while Sanders had a 119-yard game against Clemson and leads the team with seven touchdowns. Tight end Justice Cunningham has 22 catches for 287 yards but has yet to catch one in the end zone, fellow tight end Rory Anderson has just 15 catches but five have gone for touchdowns.
The offensive line has given up 35 sacks, which ranks 12th in the SEC, and has paved the way for just 142.9 yards per game on the ground. Michigan’s defensive front hadn’t gotten to the quarterback much all season, but played well against Ohio State, so that gives reason for optimism.
Defensively, South Carolina is one of the best in the country at getting to the quarterback and will present perhaps an even tougher challenge for Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson. Led by sackmaster Jadeveon Clowney, the Gamecocks lead the SEC and rank fifth nationally with 40 sacks. Clowney has 13 of them. To put that in perspective, Ohio State’s defense which sacked Michigan four times finished the season with 30.
Carolina is very good against both the run and the pass, ranking 15th and 17th nationally. The rush defense ranks fourth in the SEC, allowing just 119 yards per game, while the pass defense gives up 193. The ‘Cocks held seven opponents under 20 points and five to 10 or fewer. But in the second half of the season, when the schedule got tougher, they allowed a full touchdown more per game. Toss out Wofford and it’s nearly 11 points more than the season average.
Opposite of Clowney, end Chaz Sutton has five sacks, while another end, Aldrick Fordham, has 4.5. The leading tackler is Shaq linebacker Shaq Wilson with 77. He also has two sacks and two interceptions.
One thing South Carolina isn’t good at is punting. The Gamecocks rank last in the SEC with a net average of just 36 yards per punt as a team. Punter Tyler Hull averages 39.4. In the return game, Sanders handles the punt returns and has taken one for a touchdown. He’s the top returner in the conference, averaging 14.5 yards per.
It will be the first matchup between the two schools since 1985 when Michigan went to Columbia and won 34-3. The only other previous meeting was a 17-14 loss in 1980, so this will be the rubber match. Michigan is 23-7-1 all-time against schools from the SEC – 7-4 in bowl games – and will be looking to even its all-time bowl record at 21. Stay tuned for much more about the matchup in the weeks leading up to New Year’s Day.
What seemed like a good idea two years ago and we were cautiously excited about after going 11-2 last season, was in reality a disaster from start to finish on Saturday night. Michigan forced a three-and-out on Alabama’s first drive, but it quickly went downhill from there. We all know the story. We all watched in disbelief as the snowball got bigger and bigger and became an avalanche. And then halftime mercifully came.
When all was said and done, Michigan limped away battered and bruised, both physically and mentally, and the SEC superiority was proven once again. In reality, it was just Michigan’s seventh loss all-time against current SEC teams, compared to 20 wins and one tie. Alabama fans act as if Alabama has always been superior to Michigan, but it was just six years ago that the script would have been reversed as Michigan went 11-2 and ‘Bama just 6-7.
But we’re talking about this year. A year in which Michigan is still rebuilding from the disaster that was the Rich Rod era. A year in which Alabama will likely win a second straight national championship, and third in four years. Entering Saturday’s game, we all underestimated the significance of losing three defensive linemen, both in performance and leadership. We all underestimated Nick Saban’s ability to turn an extra 20 recruits over a five year period into a reloading machine. We should have seen this coming. It’s not 2006 anymore.
I’ve seen many a comment since Saturday night from Michigan fans calling for Denard Robinson to switch to receiver once and for all. These are likely the same fans who tout his Heisman candidacy after each big game, and this Jekyll and Hyde mentality needs to stop. This team would not have won on Saturday with Chad Henne or John Navarre or Jim Harbaugh under center. Whether we like it or not, Denard is the quarterback this season, and provides the best chance to win. Come February 2013 we can start discussing who Michigan’s quarterback should be.
The biggest problem on Saturday night was not who the starting quarterback was; it was how he was used. Denard has never been, nor ever will be a pocket quarterback, and yet that’s how he was used from the start. It’s easy to look back and critique the game plan when all is said and done, but that recipe is doomed to burn the biscuits every time against a defense like Alabama’s.
Obviously, Michigan wanted to win the game, but in the grand scheme of the season, beating Alabama was not high priority. Beating Purdue, and Illinois, and Michigan State, and Nebraska, and Minnesota, and Northwestern, and Iowa, and Ohio State are. Winning the Big Ten is. Whether we, as fans, like it or not, maybe the game plan was as it was to keep Denard healthy for the rest of the season. The coaches will never admit as much, but could you blame them if it was? You can call that a loser’s mentality, but Michigan would not have won with Denard running 15-20 times either. So why doom the season for one game?
While Denard stayed relatively healthy, except for making a tackle following an interception and contorting his body trying to reach a first down, the injury bug still struck the Wolverines in a bad way. Sophomore cornerback Blake Countess was lost for the year on Michigan’s first punt of the game. Left tackle Taylor Lewan injured his right leg and his status is unknown, though he reportedly told the coaches he could go back in. Tight end Brandon Moore also left the game with an injury.
Coutness’ loss was felt immediately, as Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron went after his replacement, Courtney Avery. His loss will be a big one the rest of the season, turning a position of strength into a position of uncertainty. Lewan’s loss was also felt immediately, as on the very next play, Alabama’s D.J. Pettway ran right by Michael Schoefield, who had shifted over to left tackle, and sacked Denard – the Tide’s only sack of the night. If he’s out for an extended period of time, Michigan’s strong line will be greatly reduced.
We saw the makings of what could become a great receiver in Devin Gardner. He started slow, failing to pull in a couple of grabs and running imprecise routes, but it was against a great secondary. He did make his first touchdown grab, and the more time he plays, the better he’ll get.
We also saw a glimpse of what should be a really good kickoff returnman in freshman Dennis Norfleet. He’s an instant upgrade from last season and should help with field position.
This week, Michigan will get back Fitzgerald Toussaint who was suspended for the opener following a DUI. His return will immediately shore up the running game for the rest of the season, although had he been on the field on Saturday, the outcome would not have changed. Alabama is just that good.
All we really found out is that Alabama was far superior and that Michigan still isn’t where it needs to be to compete with the nation’s best. End of story. Eleven regular season games remain and Michigan gets a pair of should-win games against Air Force and UMass to get everything sorted out before facing a Notre Dame team that looked strong on Saturday morning. We’re still in store for a great season, and while the excitement is tempered by Saturday’s performance, it shouldn’t have been a surprise.
None of the Big Ten looked great this weekend, save Ohio State and maybe Nebraska. Michigan State struggled against a greatly reduced Boise State. Penn State lost to Ohio. Northwestern, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Purdue, Illinois, and Indiana all struggled to wins over inferior teams. Michigan gained a great learning experience from Saturday, and that should not be overlooked. The team we see the rest of the season will hardly resemble the one that took it on the chin Saturday night. Let’s forget about Alabama and set our sights on winning the Big Ten.