(AP) - With an All-American on each side, South Carolina's sack-happy defense faces Michigan's formidable offensive front in the Outback Bowl.
The 11th-ranked Gamecocks (10-2) topped the SEC with 40 sacks this year, including a school-record 13 by All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
"We have a chemistry out there," Clowney said. "Everybody watches each other out there. We all get to the ball. Everybody just wants the same goal ... we all want to win."
The 19th-ranked Wolverines (8-4) allowed a Big Ten-low 15 sacks, due in part to an experienced line anchored by All-American left tackle Taylor Lewan.
Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game on New Year's Day. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.
"At the end of the day, it's not about me, it's not about Jadeveon Clowney, it's about the University of Michigan and USC," Lewan said. "He's a great player. I have tremendous respect for him, but at the same time I'm an offensive lineman. I'm supposed to block. It's my job to block people."
Lewan could be playing in his last collegiate game next week. He plans to announce after the Outback Bowl if he will enter the 2013 NFL draft.
"I have an idea of what I'm doing," Lewan said. "I'm almost positive I know what I'm doing. I'll play football on Tuesday, January 1st, and then I'll make my decision. I'll talk to the coaches about it, and we'll go from there."
Lewan, right guard Patrick Omameh and left guard Michael Schofield have made a combined 97 starts for Michigan.
"I trust my offensive line," Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson said. "I know they'll lay it (all out) for me, so I've got to do the same for them."
Robinson has been throwing the ball at practice. Nerve damage in his right elbow knocked him off the field Oct. 27 at Nebraska, keeping him out for the next two games and limiting his ability to throw in the final two games of the regular season.
Clowney won the Hendricks Award this year as the best defensive end in college football. The sophomore generated a buzz the past few weeks after saying a defensive player can win the Heisman Trophy next year and that it could be him.
"I'm going to play like I've been playing, and if it comes out that I win the Heisman, then I win the Heisman," Clowney said. "But if I don't, I just don't."
Clowney has been surprised by the interest generated by his Heisman comments.
"Somebody brought it up to me, and I was just like 'it's out there for me.' All the awards out there are for pretty much for anybody who wants them," Clowney said. "I didn't even bring the Heisman up. So, I just laughed. It's just something to get everybody talking about."
Clowney finished sixth in this year's Heisman voting, which was won by Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
"He's a free-spirited young man," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's definitely as good a pass rusher, I think, as I've coached. He pretty much does what we ask him to do all the time as far as being a good teammate and all of that. We'll worry about that (the Heisman) when then they start voting next year."
Clowney also establish a South Carolina mark with 21 1/2 tackles for loss this season.
"He's a freak of nature," Gamecocks linebacker Damario Jeffery said. "One of those guys that comes around every hundred years.
Mark Didtler is a sports writer for the Associated Press
Players and coaches from the Michigan Wolverines and South Carolina Gamecocks football teams in town for the Outback Bowl visited children at St Joseph’s Children’s Hospital of Tampa today to bring them a little cheer for the holidays.
Representing Michigan were QB Devin Gardner, S Jordan Kovacs, WR Jeremy Gallon, QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, S Thomas Gordon, DT Jibreel Black, OL Patrick Omameh, DT William Campbell and OL Taylor Lewan. Gamecocks participating were WR Ace Sanders, QB Dylan Thompson, SS Kadetrix Marcus, CB Victor Hampton, LS Walker Inabinet, DT J.T. Surratt, DT Kelcy Quarles, OL Brock Stadnik and OL Clayton Stadnik. They went room-to-room distributing posters, pennants, mini footballs and bags, and signed autographs for about 80 children throughout the hospital.
The Outback Bowl will kick-off at 1:00 P.M. ET on January 1st in Raymond James Stadium. Tickets are available at www.Ticketmaster.com . Fans can follow the teams throughout the week with daily updates and photos on the Outback Bowl web site at http://www.outbackbowl.com
As the Outback Bowl hits full stride this week with numerous events culminating with the big game on New Year’s Day, staff members from the bowl and area tourism organizations, along with other key partners, have been maximizing a major push through social media platforms to market the Bowl and the Tampa Bay destination to college football fans across the nation.
The effort began its push about a month ago involving the Outback Bowl, Tampa Bay & Company, Visit St Pete Clearwater, Outback Steakhouse and Raymond James Stadium. Once the teams for the bowl were announced December 2nd their social media staff were provided with a “Social Media Game Plan” and resources from images to web links and hash tags to promote not only the game, but the Tampa Bay area destination to their huge fan following. Michigan has more than one million followers on their Facebook page, more than any other team in the country, while South Carolina has more than 350,000.
“We recognize the value of using social media to reach college football fans, and specifically the fans of the teams in our game, to encourage them to follow their team to what we feel is the best bowl destination in the country,” explains Mike Schulze, Director of Communications & Sponsorships for the Outback Bowl. “To do this we wanted to combine the various resources of these organizations working in concert as one with the schools to maximize the exposure for the community. It’s about developing our common goals into an overall game plan that is then implemented from multiple entities and a variety of perspectives.”
Representatives of this social media partnership have been pushing the destination throughout the past month with images, sweepstakes promotions and hash tags such as #VisitTampaBay, #AmericasBestBeaches and #FootballinParadise, the Outback Bowl’s marketing tagline.
With the teams arriving to the area, each organization will have staff at every event throughout the week posting behind the scene messaging and photos of the players and fans enjoying their time in the community. And on game day, a Social Media Command Post will be set up in the Raymond James Stadium press box to maximize interaction with fans throughout the Outback Bowl game.
The Bowls long-time title sponsor, Outback Steakhouse, which has more 2.3 million Facebook fans, has used their platform to market a major promotion involving the winning team of this year’s bowl game to determine which free appetizer customers can receive on January 2nd in their restaurants – the Bloomin Onion if the Gamecocks win, or Coconut Shrimp if the Wolverines win.
“The efforts thus far have produced tremendous results and we expect the next two weeks will be even more beneficial as teams and fans arrive in town and the focus is on our community,” notes Schulze. “I predict this initiative will be a model for other major events here as well as bowls around the country.”
The Outback Bowl celebrates its 27th game this year and will be played on January 1st at 1:00 PM in Raymond James Stadium. Tickets to the game are available through Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 and www.Ticketmaster.com. For more information on bowl events and area hotels and attractions go to the Outback Bowl web site at http://www.outbackbowl.com