The Big Ten’s chance at a perfect bowl season died at the hands of a bumbling Michigan offense.
The Wolverines blew a 16-point lead over the final 18 minutes of the Outback Bowl, losing 26-19 to South Carolina Monday as coach Jim Harbaugh’s team committed turnovers on three of its final four possessions — and relinquished the ball on downs on its only other fourth quarter drive.
Before the Gamecocks roared back from a 19-3 deficit with 2 ½ minutes to play in the third quarter, the Big Ten appeared poised to finish an unprecedented 8-0 in this bowl season.
The league won its first seven postseason games — all against Power 5 competition. No league has ever won more than five bowl games in a single season without a loss.
The Big Ten also won three New Year’s Six games as league champ Ohio State beat USC, Penn State defeated Washington and Wisconsin beat Miami. The success helped ease some of the sting inflicted on Dec. 3 as the College Football Playoff selection committee left the Big Ten out of the semifinals in Pasadena and New Orleans, choosing Alabama over the Buckeyes.
The other Power 5 league left out of the College Football Playoff, the Pac-12, finished 1-8 in bowl season.
But hours before the playoff took center stage, Michigan could not close the deal on the Big Ten’s ultimate statement.
The Wolverines’ woes began with a fumble by quarterback Brandon Peters in the final minutes of the third quarter. South Carolina converted the turnover into a one-play touchdown on Jake Bentley‘s 21-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Edwards.
After the Gamecocks took the lead less than four minutes into the fourth quarter, consecutive Michigan mistakes ensued on a JaMarcus King interception of Peters and a fumbled punt return by Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Parker White missed a 48-yard field goal for South Carolina with 1:43 to play, but Peters was intercepted by Steven Montac at the Gamecocks’ 45-yard line to ice the win for South Carolina — and ruin the Big Ten’s chance to thumb its nose at the playoff.