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December 31, 2012

Staff Predictions: Michigan vs. South Carolina

The last time Michigan played South Carolina, Ronald Reagan was in office, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey was being played while the Wolverines took the field before the Gamecocks - and U-M proceeded to stomp the home team, 34-3, behind Jim Harbaugh at quarterback.

"We made it to the field and I was standing next to Coach Alex Agase - we were standing next to each other talking about the game when South Carolina came out to the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and that had to be the loudest stadium I had been in my entire life," former Michigan linebacker Jeff Akers recalled a few years ago. "Those people just went berserk. We were standing two feet away from each other and could barely hear each other. We knew it was going to be great."

Nobody's expecting a similar beating this year, though there is a particular air of confidence coming from the other USC's fan base and media. The SEC is considered the top conference in the rules-be-damned era of college football, and the Big Ten has taken a beating nationally in one of the league's worst seasons.

It doesn't help the cause, either, that U-M will be without starting corner J.T. Floyd, suspended for the bowl game after an off the field incident. Yeah, the expectation is for the position, but we'd expect a lot more if Floyd and Blake Countess were manning the corners Tuesday.

That said, U-M has fared well against SEC schools over the years, the schedule mistake against Alabama in Dallas earlier this year notwithstanding. Expect the Wolverines to put up a fight.

This week's winner receives the last Blimpy Burger to come off the line and a dozen of Mr. Spot's barbeque wings, the best wings in town.

The picks:

Chris Balas: It's all about the line play. The Wolverines will have to play their best game in that respect, especially offensively - and it still might not be good enough.

South Carolina 20, Michigan 13

John Borton: Denard Robinson deserves to go out in a blaze of glory, along with his teammates. But the Wolverines won't get hot on offense unless he does, and the body betrayal he's suffered might just make the difference one more time, against a South Carolina defense that isn't clowning around.

South Carolina 24, Michigan 17

Michael Spath: South Carolina doesn't have an offense to be feared, but then, does Michigan? The play of the offensive line is a huge concern against the Gamecocks' ferocious front seven, and that matchup alone will largely determine the fate of this game. If Michigan utilizes Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson on the field together for a full 60 minutes, the Wolverines have a chance. But even then, only a chance. This one will be close, but a defensive touchdown puts it out of reach.

South Carolina 28, Michigan 17

Andy Reid: If Michigan scores 17 points, it may have a really realistic chance at pulling out a win in this one. Trouble is, 17 points might not be exactly possible. Without a consistent run game that can help Michigan control the game and the clock, the offense is going to struggle to move the ball on the best defense the Wolverines have seen since the Notre Dame game.

South Carolina 17, Michigan 13

Tim Sullivan: If Michigan was 100% this bowl season, I'd be inclined to pick differently, but with starting corners JT Floyd and Blake Countess both out (though Countess has been out most of the year), I have a hard time seeing the Wolverines containing an explosive playmaker like Ace Sanders - even if running back Marcus Lattimore isn't there to take the attention off him. On the other side of the ball, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney might be the best player Michigan has faced at any position this year. As they often do as a bowl underdog, Michigan will overachieve, but it won't be quite enough to win.

South Carolina 24, Michigan 22

Kevin Minor: Michigan was exposed to start the 2012 season by an SEC foe, but will atone for that loss against the Gamecocks. The Wolverines' defense has greatly improved, especially in the trenches, since the 41-14 season-opening thrashing by Alabama and, following an entire month of preparation, will do enough to keep the game close late into the fourth quarter. Both offenses will struggle to move the ball, but U-M will make the necessary plays down the stretch and steal a win in SEC country with a late score.

Michigan 17, South Carolina 13

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