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December 4, 2012Ever since Brady Hoke took over as the Michigan football coach, he has been very straightforward about the ultimate goal for the program: Big Ten titles.
The Wolverines (8-4 overall, 6-2 in conference) fell short of that goal this season, and that is disappointing. But that doesn't mean the players aren't thrilled about the prospect of playing No. 10 South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.
The Gamecocks have dropped just two games all season, a 23-21 loss at LSU and a 44-11 loss at Florida.
"It's a good team. They have a good record," fifth-year senior guard Patrick Omameh said. "They have talent all the way across the board, so we're excited to play them. "Ideally, we would have wanted to play in Pasadena, but the Outback bowl is a very good bowl."
"It's great but we wanted to be in the Rose Bowl," added senior quarterback Denard Robinson. "We have to make the most of this Outback Bowl. It's an honor to be in the Outback Bowl, and to be playing South Carolina. They're a great team.
"We get another opportunity to play. Have fun and enjoy it. Because it's fun. Being back in Florida will be great. I get to see the sun again."
South Carolina has been dominant on defense this season.
The Gamecocks rank 13th nationally in scoring defense, surrendering just 17.2 points per game. Six opponents failed to score 14 points on them this season, including SEC runner-up Georgia, who was dismantled by South Carolina, 35-7.
Although the Wolverines have been off since a 26-21 loss at Ohio State Nov. 24 - and won't come together for an official practice until Friday - Omameh says the players have been focused, determined and hard at work in the last few weeks.
"Everybody is aware that we still have another game to play," he said. "You see the whole team in and out of the building every day, doing what they can to stay game ready, because they know we have another one to go, and we want to win.
"Staying in the weight room, staying on the field, drill work, everything you can do to keep yourself mentally and physically prepared for football. You have to be aware that you're taking a trip, but it's a business trip. You're not out there just to have fun, and you have to stay focused on the task at hand."
Three of the Wolverines losses came against the top three teams in the final Associated Press poll of the regular season. No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) and No. 2 Alabama (12-1) will play in the BCS National Championship Game. No. 3 Ohio State (12-0) is ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA violations stemming from improper benefits during the Jim Tressel era.
Michigan relishes the opportunity to test their mettle against another high-profile, Top 10 team.
"We definitely want to go out on the right note, which is something we did last year," said Omameh, referring to the Wolverines 23-20 win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. "Ending with a win, it puts a better perspective on the whole offseason, going into it It's something that we definitely want to do, even us seniors who won't be here. We want to do it for the program, for the guys who will still be here."