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Outback Bowl 2013: Jadeveon Clowney Holds Key to Victory for Both Teams

COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 08:  Jadeveon Clowney #7 of the South Carolina Gamecocks smiles on the way to defeating the Kentucky Wildcats 54-3 during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

Victory in the 2013 Outback Bowl between No. 10 South Carolina (10-2) and No. 18 Michigan (8-4) will ultimately be decided by one man—South Carolina's sophomore defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney.

The 6'6", 256-pound athletic freak has been unstoppable in 2012, wreaking havoc in opposing backfields on a weekly basis, regardless of the talent level of the players tasked with trying to stop him.

Clowney's 50 tackles on the season may seem pedestrian, but when you take a deeper look, you realize how it's possible for one man to change the course of a game.

He picked up 13 sacks, five QB hurries and forced a pair of fumbles, but, most impressively, Clowney had 21.5 tackles for loss this season.

That works out to 43 percent of his tackles coming behind the line of scrimmage—a number so ridiculous that it demands more attention. Think of it this way: Nearly every other tackle that Clowney made this season resulted in a loss of yardage for the opposition.

The task of keeping this madman out of Michigan's backfield will likely fall to Taylor Lewan, an outstanding offensive lineman who is expected to be selected early in the 2013 NFL draft, should he decide to declare.

While Lewan is incredibly talented and plays with the mean streak needed to bang heads with Clowney, the defensive end's explosive first step and athletic gifts are simply too much for one man to handle.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke doesn't believe that's the case, as he told MLive's Kyle Meinke: "Anybody can be blocked one-on-one. How long you block him is the key."

To be fair, Hoke did point to the fact that he can offer Lewan help:

Whether it's doubling him, or chipping him, or single-blocking him, or play-action and cutting, whatever you want to do, you've got to execute it. There's got to be a timing presence to all your pass game.

As Meinke notes in the same story, Lewan has nothing but respect for what Clowney brings to the table:

He does so many things right. He does the one thing every defensive player needs, and that's a knack for the ball. He has great instincts and knows how to get to the ball.

His technique, fundamentals -- everything he does -- is tremendous. And his athletic ability? Not many people have that.

If Lewan and his teammates are able to keep Clowney occupied, the Wolverines have a chance to pull off the upset.

Should Clowney get loose, he's capable of having a monster game as he did against No. 14 Clemson in the final game of the season, when the sophomore picked up seven tackles, 4.5 sacks and a QB hurry.

There's no stopping Jadeveon Clowney—you can only hope to contain him.

And even then, it might not be enough to wrench victory from his massive hands.

We can look at this entire matchup another way, taking a page from Bill Murray's 1984 classic, Ghostbusters.

Clowney fills in for Rick Moranis who played Vince Klortho, "the keymaster."

it remains to be seen if Lewan is up to the challenge of playing Sigourney Weaver's part of Dana Barrett, also known as "the gatekeeper."

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