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December 31, 2012

Q&A with ESPN analyst Mike Tirico

Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden will share the booth Tuesday, Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla. to call the Wolverines' clash with South Carolina in the Outback Bowl.

Tirico, an Ann Arbor native, sat down with TheWolverine.com at an Outback Bowl event this weekend to talk about the upcoming game.

Mike Tirico Interview The Wolverine from Michael Baker on Vimeo.


The Wolverine: This is quite and event.

Tirico: "They do a great job for the Outback Bowl. The teams that go to the Sugar Bowl or some of the other BCS bowls get a lot of attention, but many of these other bowls do a great job. I know Michigan State enjoyed their experience down here, and Michigan is feeling the same way about this year."

The Wolverine: So, what do you think of the matchup between Michigan and South Carolina?

Tirico: "It's going to be a great battle on a variety of fronts. One, you have two teams that both have two quarterbacks. You don't know who's going to be playing in what situation, so you add some intrigue to it. You have two teams that have great running backs who have suffered severe injuries, so someone has to step up in the running back spot.

"And you have two very good defenses. South Carolina may have the best overall defensive player in the country, with Jadeveon Clowney. I know Manti Te'o from Notre Dame was second in the Heisman - but Clowney was sixth. There are many people who think he would be the first overall player selected in the NFL Draft, if he were eligible. He's a player Michigan has to handle, and his matchup with Taylor Lewan is one of the best of the bowl season: a first-round left tackle vs. a first-round defensive end. You don't get that very often.

"And Michigan's defense has been nothing sort of sensational the last couple years, considering where they came from under Rich Rodriguez. How will that defense play against an SEC offensive line. There are a lot of exciting matchups."

The Wolverine: Do you have a prediction?

Tirico: "Any time I do the game, I don't predict the game, because it's not fair to the fans of either side, since you're the home announcer for each side. But I'm really intrigued to see how Denard Robinson plays in his last game. He's been an unbelievable bridge from a departure of the Michigan way, under Rich Rodriguez for three years, to a return to the Michigan way. I think he'll go down as one of the most successful, statistically outstanding and most-remembered Michigan athletes. He has made so many individual plays in The Big House that, for generations, people will talk about the things they saw Denard do on that field. It will be interesting to see what he does in his last game in Maize And Blue."

The Wolverine: South Carolina players and coach have mentioned that they have been through some adversity. But Michigan has also adapted a lot to what they've been given.

Tirico: Brady Hoke has done an unbelievable job in his time at Michigan. Not only was the team struggling under Rich Rodriguez, but it just wasn't the right fit and the players were recruited for a very different system than where Brady wants them in the future and where they are right now. The adaption by the coaches and players has been one of the underappreciated stories, as Michigan got to and won a BCS game last year.

"Yes, they lost four games this year. But look at those four games: you have two teams that are playing for the national championship, in Notre Dame and Alabama; you have Ohio State; and Nebraska, in a game where, if Denard Robinson doesn't hurt, Michigan may have won. You have a lot of different factors that say this is a pretty good team that could write a really interesting and exciting last line for Team 133, as they like to talk about, with a win down here."

The Wolverine: Should be an exciting game and the weather will be great.

Tirico: It is warming than Ann Arbor - we can tell everybody back home that, for sure. That is one of the joys of the bowl system. People say, 'Let's have a big playoff,' but the one neat thing about the bowl system that doesn't get talked about enough - a playoff would not have a Michigan or a Michigan State in it [this season].

"We saw what Michigan State did earlier this week, winning their bowl game to send the seniors out winners. And Michigan has a chance to do that in back-to-back years also. In a playoff system, we wouldn't see that. There are positives to this. It will be a pretty good football game, and the weather is a pretty big positive for those of us who call Michigan home."


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