Michigan bracing for South Carolina's speed on defense
TAMPA, Fla. -- There isn't much South Carolina's defense lacks.
No. 19 Michigan (8-4) has heard a lot about so-called "SEC speed" heading into Tuesday's matchup against No. 11 South Carolina (10-2) in the Outback Bowl, and whatever that means, the Gamecocks certainly have it.
And they expect it to surprise the Wolverines.
"I think so," South Carolina senior safety D.J. Swearinger said. "They’re not used to playing and SEC-caliber defense like ours. We’ll be ready."
The Gamecocks were among the best defensive teams this year in the SEC, a league brimming with ferocious defense. They finished among the nation's leaders in several categories, including yards (11th), passing (16th), rushing (16th), scoring (13th) and sacks (seventh).
They allowed more than 23 points just twice all year.
Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges is particularly concerned about South Carolina's front seven, which is paced by All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, the Ted Hendricks Award winner as the nation's best end.
He leads the nation in sacks (13) and is third in tackles for loss (102).
"We faced a couple good ones, but speed-wise, (South Carolina's front) probably is as fast as anyone we've seen," Borges said.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner was terrific as the Wolverines' full-time quarterback in the final four games, but also had lots of time to locate his targets.
The Wolverines' tailback production, meantime, has been meager this year and those travails could become pronounced against a front seven that is big enough to clog the middle, but athletic enough to protect the flanks.
Michigan's backs struggled to rush the ball against other defenses with strong front sevens, including Alabama (42 yards on 19 carries), Notre Dame (58 yards on 13 carries) and Michigan State (64 yards on 11 carries). It averaged 10.7 points in those games, going 1-2.
And Borges says South Carolina's front seven is just as good, if not better.
How will Michigan counter?
"You just got to be conscious of where they are, and know what they're capable of, and have things within your protections and your run game that handle them," Borges said.
"I'm not going to reveal any secrets, but you can't just treat them like you treat every other team you play. They have some athletes who can be disruptive."
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