Michigan to face South Carolina in Outback Bowl

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Sunday, December 3, 2017 - 12:12pm

Remember that time Jadeveon Clowney knocked a helmet off Michigan running back Vincent Smith? Play it back a few times in your head, because the Michigan football team has a rematch in the same bowl game this year against the same opponent.

Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines are Florida bound — again — this time to face off with South Carolina.

They aren’t playing in the College Football Playoff or even in a New Year’s Six bowl game, but it’s a postseason game nonetheless.

On Jan. 1, the Wolverines and Gamecocks will meet in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

“We are honored to represent our university and the Big Ten Conference in the tradition-laden Outback Bowl in Tampa,” Harbaugh said in a press release. “Our players and staff are excited to face an excellent SEC opponent in South Carolina and look forward to the competition on New Year’s Day.”

The game, which will kickoff at noon eastern time, pits Michigan against an SEC opponent in a bowl game for the second time in Harbaugh’s three seasons. This matchup will also be the Wolverines’ third-straight bowl game in Florida.

Michigan lost in the Orange Bowl last year to Florida State, 33-32, and the Wolverines beat Florida the prior year in the Citrus Bowl, 41-7.

Michigan’s roster is laden with Florida natives. They all said they were excited to play the Gators to open up the season, and once again, those same Florida guys are excited to play close to home.

“I’m sure we’ll have some family come down for Christmas,” said senior tackle Mason Cole, who is from the Tampa area. “I have so many friends that just haven’t been able to make it up to games, but now they’ll be able to make it to a game easily. I think everyone’s just excited.”

The Wolverines (5-4 Big Ten, 8-4 overall) finished fourth in the Big Ten East, while the Gamecocks (5-3 SEC, 8-4 overall) finished second in the SEC East behind No. 3 Georgia.

The last time the two teams met was in the 2013 Outback Bowl, when the Gamecocks won on a late touchdown, 33-28.

Michigan’s bowl selection came after a shakeup among college football’s top programs. Despite winning the Big Ten Championship on Saturday night, Ohio State couldn’t sneak into the Playoff. Instead, the committee chose a one-loss Alabama team — that didn’t play for its conference championship — to fit in at the No. 4 spot.

Leaving Ohio State out of the top four pushed all the bowl-eligible Big Ten teams down in the selection process. Nonetheless, the Wolverines will get to play in the Outback Bowl ahead of both Michigan State and Northwestern, both of which finished with better records at 9-3, and the latter of which beat the Wolverines at home.

The rival Spartans ended up with the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Speaking to media Sunday afternoon, Michigan junior safety Tyree Kinnel talked about his immediate reactions to the news.

“You can’t win or lose out with California or down in Tampa, but we know the Outback’s the bigger bowl, so we’re definitely excited for this one,” Kinnel said. “We definitely want to get this win for our seniors.”

Added Cole: “Yeah, it was (hectic). There were two or three bowl games we had the possibility of going to, so I was hoping it would be the Outback Bowl, just kind of anticipating all day what it would be.”

Here is where some of Michigan’s conference opponents are headed to finish off the 2017 season:

Cotton Bowl: No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Southern California

Orange Bowl: No. 6 Wisconsin vs. No 10 Miami

Fiesta Bowl: No. 9 Penn State vs. No. 11 Washington

Holiday Bowl: No. 15 Michigan State vs. No. 18 Washington State