Wolverines hope they've learned

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A Big Ten championship. A Rose Bowl victory. A 10-win season. They're all goals year in and year out for the Michigan football program.

And this year, they're all out of reach.

But No. 18 Michigan might be able to find itself victorious in the Outback Bowl against No. 10 South Carolina on Jan. 1 after learning from the mistakes that kept it from achieving its primary goals.

on Tide, Michigan rushed for just 69 yards -- 118 yards less than its season average. And against Ohio State, the Wolverines rushed for just 108 yards -- 79 yards less than the average. Against Notre Dame, the Wolverines rushed for 161 yards, but that was because when they threw it, Michigan's defense was often returning to the field.

In all its losses, the Michigan offense wasn't able to stay on the field enough. The Wolverines averaged 62 offensive plays per game this season, but against Alabama (56) and Ohio State (47), they failed to get to that point.

Against Notre Dame, the Wolverines ran 66 plays, but far too many ended in turnovers, which was another obvious break in flow for all three games.

In Arlington against Alabama, Michigan threw three interceptions. Against Notre Dame, it was five interceptions and one lost fumble. And against Ohio State it was three lost fumbles and one interception.

"Each of those losses, we went back, analyzed everything we did," senior offensive lineman Patrick Omameh said. "We know the mistakes we made. We know what we can get better at. And those are all things we can look at going forward."

But going forward and looking at the numbers South Carolina put up in the regular season, Michigan could face the same struggles. The Gamecocks allowed only 119 yards per game and nine total rushing touchdowns this season. And with Thomas Rawls facing his second career start as running back and Denard Robinson's position still unclear, that could be worrisome.

South Carolina ranked as the nation's 12th best team in total defense, allowing just 312 yards per game. And the Gamecocks finished as the 13th best scoring defense in the nation, giving up just over 17 points per game.

"When you play good football teams, and whether you win or lose, you learn how you have to play," Hoke said. "We learned that we have to do a better job taking care of the football. You have to be able to run the football better. You have to get the ball back for your offense at the end of a game to give them an opportunity to score."

After a season in which the Wolverines took the field against some of the best and left defeated, they'll get one last chance against a top-10 team to show that they've grown and learned from their losses.

"We played against three teams that are the tops in the country and we know that we can play with anybody in the country," Robinson said. "We lost those games, but still it gives us a boost to know that we can play with anybody. We just have to finish. We have to learn to finish now."