“We’re not good enough,” Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh said Sunday night when talking about the 2017 Michigan Wolverines as they begin to prepare for South Carolina and the 2018 Outback Bowl/Hall of Fame Bowl at noon on New Year’s Day at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Michigan certainly wasn’t good enough to beat the likes of Michigan State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State. The Wolverines weren’t good enough to earn one of the four playoff spots and they weren’t good enough to accomplish the goals that Harbaugh has established since returning to Ann Arbor.
But that process continues and the coaching staff and players can only control what’s ahead of them – and right now, South Carolina is ahead of them.
“We know we have to be better and that starts today,” Harbaugh said. “And having a great matchup with South Carolina will help us to do that.”
Harbaugh said the Wolverines will open the month-long practice and preparation process with Brandon Peters as the starting quarterback. Peters practiced last week and has been cleared after suffering a concussion early in the season.
The Wolverines are not only getting ready to play South Carolina, but like many teams, use the bowl game as a springboard to the next season.
“Building and attacking at the same time,” Harbaugh said is the plan for the month of December. “This season and next season all at the same time. It’s both.
“We look at it as we’re not good enough. We weren’t good enough to win all our games. And we need to be better and that started last week as we build and attack as we try to improve the football team.”
Harbaugh did sound excited about heading to Tampa to play against South Carolina when he talked to the media via conference call on Sunday night. And why not? A four-loss team gets to play in Florida, on New Year’s Day, against an SEC opponent – it could be worse. For example, Michigan State (9-3, 7-2 Big Ten) was selected to play Washington State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Yeah, exactly.
“We’re as excited as heck to be coming down to the Outback Bowl,” Harbaugh said. “Most of us have friends, family down in Florida. We are excited about the competition against South Carolina and they’re a tough, well-coached team. We are excited about playing on New Year’s Day. It should be one of the most exciting Jan. 1 lineup of bowl games I’ve ever seen so we are excited to be part of it.”
The Wolverines (8-4, 5-4 Big Ten) will be making their Big Ten-leading sixth appearance in the Outback Bowl/Hall of Fame Bowl, which will be televised nationally by ESPN2. UM is 3-2 in the Outback Bowl/Hall of Fame Bowl, with appearances in the 1988, 1994, 1997, 2003 and 2013 games. U-M claimed victories against Alabama (1988), North Carolina State (1994) and Florida (2003) and suffered setbacks to Alabama (1997) and South Carolina (2013).
This will be the fourth meeting between Michigan and South Carolina, featuring a rematch of the 2013 Outback Bowl game won by South Carolina, 33-28, in the waning seconds.
South Carolina (8-4, 5-3 SEC), led by head coach Will Muschamp, finished second in the SEC East standings behind Georgia.
U-M has compiled an 8-5 record against the SEC in bowl games.