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December 2, 2012

USC takes on Michigan in Outback Bowl


Steve Spurrier said on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena that South Carolina would land in the Outback or Gator Bowl, and it didn't matter to him which one it was.

As it turns out, Spurrier and the Gamecocks are heading to Raymond James Stadium for the fourth time since 2000 for an intriguing matchup with traditional Big Ten power Michigan (8-4).

Denard Robinson vs. Jadeveon Clowney? Should be fun.

Spurrier is scheduled to hold a press conference at 6:30 p.m. today at Williams-Brice Stadium "to discuss the bowl selection."

The official announcement from the Outback Bowl came just before 6 p.m. when the bowl's website confirmed the matchup between the Gamecocks and Wolverines.

The schools last met in 1985.

"Either the Outback or Gator is fine with us," Spurrier said on Sunday following a halftime ceremony honoring the football team. "We'll just see how it plays out. It will be either one. We're pretty sure of that."

The Outback Bowl officially announced Michigan as the Big Ten's representative in the Jan. 1 game in a Tweet posted at 3:05 p.m.

The pieces began to fall into place late Sunday when the Capital One announced they had selected Georgia and the Gator Bowl announced Mississippi State would face Northwestern in its game.

Spurrier said bowl practice will begin in about two weeks, and named Connor Shaw the starting quarterback for the bowl game "if he's healthy," although he added backup Dylan Thompson, who directed the USC offense in a 27-17 victory at Clemson on Nov. 24, should play in the bowl game as well.

USC could conduct another halftime ceremony honoring the football team on Jan. 19 if it wins the bowl game, Spurrier said.

"Hopefully, we'll have a bowl championship trophy to show off in January," Spurrier said.

Michigan has also played in the Outback Bowl four times: the Wolverines beat Florida 38-30 in 2003; lost to Alabama 17-14 in 1997; defeated NC State 42-7 in 1994; and topped the Crimson Tide 28-24 in 1988.

With both schools expected to take large and loyal fan bases to Tampa, tickets to the Outback Bowl could be hard to come by.

Following a dizzying spate of back room maneuvering in the wake of Saturday's thrilling SEC Championship Game, the SEC's bowl picture began to crystallize on Sunday.

Well, sort of.

According to reports, both the SEC and Big Ten offices moved quickly to protect Georgia and Nebraska, the losers of their respective championship games, by applying pressure on the Capital One Bowl. Neither conference wanted the embarrassment of seeing their runner-ups slide too far down the bowl ladder.

ESPN.com's Big Ten bloggers posted this message early Sunday: "Cap One pick basically done: Georgia-Nebraska. Expect Michigan to Outback and Northwestern to Gator. B1G avoids Johnny Football."

In addition, within seconds of Capital One Bowl officials announcing it on Twitter, Stewart Mandel of SI.com posted this Tweet at about 2:30 p.m: "It's official: Nebraska to play in Capital One Bowl."

As a result, Texas A&M was pushed out of the Capital One Bowl spot and into the Chick-fil-A Bowl opposite Clemson.

But, hold on. Some bowl analysts are predicting Northern Illinois could end up in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, claiming one of the coveted BCS spots. If that happens, Oklahoma would get dropped to the Cotton Bowl setting up a matchup with Texas A&M.

So, if Georgia goes to Orlando and the Aggies go to Dallas to face the Sooners, what happens to USC and LSU? Very likely, the Gamecocks stay with the Outback Bowl and LSU heads to Atlanta for the New Year's Eve clash with Clemson.

Another option: LSU plays Oklahoma or Texas in Dallas and Texas A&M faces Clemson in Atlanta.

The Florida-Times Union reported on Sunday that Northwestern would be the Big Ten's representative in the Gator Bowl. However, Northwestern hosted Vanderbilt during the regular season, possibly ruling out a rematch. If so, Mississippi State would travel to northeast Florida for the second time in three years.

Garry Smits of the Times-Union also reported this: "The SEC pick (for Gator Bowl) was on hold as of 2 p.m. on Sunday because of an ongoing dispute between the Cotton Bowl and Texas A&M. The Cotton Bowl wants to match the Aggies (10-2) against Texas, but A&M officials believe it's too soon, one year after leaving the Big 12, to play a game against a historic rival that had to be dropped when A&M went to the SEC."

Thus, Texas A&M will only play in the Cotton Bowl if the opponent is Oklahoma or another Big 12 team not named Texas.

In fact, the local newspaper in College Station reported that with hopes of a Texas A&M-Texas bowl reunion meeting dead, the "dream matchup" had become Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma.

BCS National Championship Game (Jan. 7) - Alabama (vs. Notre Dame)
Sugar Bowl (Jan. 2) - Florida (BCS)(vs. Louisville)
Capital One Bowl (Jan. 1) - Georgia (vs. Nebraska)
Outback Bowl (Jan. 1) - South Carolina (vs. Michigan)
Cotton Bowl (Jan. 4) - Texas A&M (vs. Oklahoma)
Chick-fil-A Bowl (Dec. 31) - LSU (vs. Clemson)
Gator Bowl (Jan. 2) - Mississippi State (vs. Northwestern)
Music City Bowl (Dec. 31) - Ole Miss
BBVA Compass Bowl (Jan. 5) - Vanderbilt
Liberty Bowl (Dec. 31) - No eligible teams
Independence Bowl (Dec. 28) - No eligible teams

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