Michigan Football: Outback Bowl Result Will Define Denard Robinson's Legacy

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2012

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 24: Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates his 67-yard touchdown run against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Denard Robinson gets one more chance to define his career when the Michigan Wolverines play the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Outback Bowl.

Robinson's career at Michigan has been well-documented. Ever since supplanting Tate Forcier as the starter during the Rich Rodriguez era, he's been Michigan's most popular player and the face of the program.

His electrifying playmaking ability has wowed fans for four years as he is quite possibly the most athletic quarterback to ever play at the college level. His junior season marked the most successful season for Michigan in years, as he led the team to a Sugar Bowl victory and ended the season at 11-2.

With that great junior season came massive expectations for his senior season. A Big Ten title, a serious run at the Heisman and another BCS Bowl victory were all heavily talked about in the preseason for the Wolverines.

But, 2012 hasn't been nearly that kind for Robinson or the Wolverines. A 41-14 clobbering from Alabama to start the season certainly put a damper on things, and the season as a whole has been a let down.

Firstly, Robinson didn't progress as a passer nearly as well as fans would have hoped.

"Shoelace" has never been known for his accurate arm, but the expectation for improvement was strong after four years in the program. Robinson struggled to complete 53.6 percent of his passes for only nine touchdowns with nine interceptions in his eight games as the starting quarterback.

Then, to add to the disappointment of Robinson's senior season, the star quarterback went down with an injury against Nebraska and was forced to sit out two games while Devin Gardner assumed the starting quarterback role.

When Robinson came back from his hand injury, he was still unable to throw the ball so he contributed to the team in whatever ways he could, effectively playing running back, wide receiver and occasionally taking snaps to run the ball.

Robinson's versatility may be good for showing NFL scouts and adding a dimension to the Wolverines offense, but it certainly didn't yield the team results that were anticipated this season. Michigan lost to archrival Ohio State to close out the season and fell short of a Big Ten title game berth.

Now, with Robinson's final regular season with the Wolverines complete, disappointment is the one word that describes his senior season. He didn't come close to the Heisman trophy, the Wolverines failed to reach the conference championship game or a BCS bowl.

However, there's still one thing that could save Michigan's season and make Robinson's senior season a success—an Outback Bowl win over South Carolina. The Outback Bowl may not be a BCS bowl, but it's a high-profile matchup against an SEC team that is considered a favorite.

By contributing to a Wolverines victory over the Gamecocks, Robinson can erase a senior season defined by letdown. Against an athletic defense like South Carolina's, Robinson's athletic ability and versatility can be a real x-factor.

Robinson's heart and leadership has always endeared himself to Michigan fans. He'll get one more opportunity to showcase that in the Outback Bowl. If he can put on a great performance and beat the Gamecocks, he will have secured his place in the history of Michigan football.