Michigan vs. South Carolina: Patterns, Probability, and Predictions
Michigan vs. South Carolina Preview:
There is really no need for deep, meta-analysis in previewing the Michigan and South Carolina bowl game. Anything can happen in bowl games, but these two teams have more predictability than most match-ups. Oh, there could be trick plays that change the game, and one wrong turnover could end up creating the win or loss, but in the case of these two teams the numbers really do not lie.
Both Michigan and South Carolina have many similarities. These include much better than average defenses, sporadic offenses, beating decent teams, and losing to elite teams. Michigan and South Carolina are simply good teams in really strong leagues.
If one listens to the bowl scuttlebutt, Michigan State should have been the Big Ten representative and Michigan should have played Washington State. The PAC 12 defenses have given up big totals and have been taken to the woodshed. But the bowl committee, supposedly took the Michigan team and all of the remaining glitz, over the Spartans. So, Michigan is now in a situation with an opponent that is not only similar, but also equal in many ways.
Both teams have defenses that can keep them in games against elite teams, and both teams have offenses that did not produce enough to be elite teams. It is hard to score 30 points against either team, and it can be said that it has been less than normal for either offense to score over thirty points. Two times South Carolina scored over thirty against good teams (and a third time against Wofford). Michigan scored thirty points five times, but against top competition the Wolverines had trouble hitting 20 points, usually less.
So, a classic average offense and good defense scenario equates for both teams. The talent is pretty even, the results were similar, and so coaching up a game plan that effectively attacks the other team becomes the vehicle for success in this match-up.
Equally important is how the two quarterbacks can avoid turnovers and hit the big play. Jake Bentley of South Carolina has some nice numbers, he probably gives South Carolina a slight advantage in the quarterback match-up. Although Peters is clearly a wild card, one that can end up a joker or an ace. Bentley has a nice rating and has competed over 62 percent of his passes and many receivers have good numbers.
As mentioned game planning will be a big factor. How did Michigan’s offense use practice time? Was the intent to become better at what Michigan has attempted to do all year offensively; or has the practice preparation taken on a greater emphasis on creating a game plan specific to South Carolina?
South Carolina will attack the quarterback, who would not? Between a young quarterback and a line that has not demonstrated minimal ability to protect a quarterback the game plan is simple. First, hold the run game on first and second down to a couple of yards, then attack, basically ignoring play action. Michigan would be well suited to come out with quick screens, tight end outs, and spread out the Carolina defense. We will see if UM goes in its normal offensive progression and patterns. South Carolina bends some and then does a nice job of holding in the red zone. Michigan seems to get to the red zone and then settle for field goals all too often. The best play in the red zone could easily swing the final score.
The Michigan defense will have some wrinkles, perhaps to better defend the tight end game, but the overall strategy will be vintage Don Brown. Bentley is smart enough and athletic enough to sneak out the back door and hurt Michigan with timely scrambles.
This is the type of field and weather that kickers love. The game may come down to a fifty yard plus field goal. Michigan appears to have an advantage in the field goal game, but sometimes all a kicker has to do is make the right one.
In good weather, a good field, and with plenty of sound game preparation time, the offenses usually put up points. The team with the better passing game has an advantage in a game between two sound defenses. This should be a game that initial success will be attributed to good game planning. the ending will come down to personal battles, more than strategy.