By Zach Walker
#14 Michigan Wolverines vs. #19 Florida Gators
Friday – January 1 – 12:00 pm CT
Florida Citrus Bowl – Orlando, Florida
Records Before the Game
Michigan Wolverines (9-3, 6-2 Big 10)
Florida Gators (10-3, 7-1 SEC)
How did these teams get to this Bowl?
The Gators were the SEC East representatives in the SEC title game against Alabama, and got their bags packed for Orlando, by being absolutely unable to both pass the football and prevent Coker from passing the football. The Wolverines defensed their way to a nine win turnaround, and it appears the Khaki-clad Jim Harbaugh really has something brewing in Ann Arbor, despite being blown out against Ohio State, and having one of the greatest fails to end a football game ever against the Spartans. The Citrus Bowl is appropriate for these teams, because both of these coaches have a chance to turn a ruby grapefruit shade of red with their abilities to pop their top.
One would figure that a Jim Harbaugh team would be more proficient on offense, but really they aren’t any sort of offensive power. They get a game that is enough to play THAT game, nothing that blows anyone away by any stretch. The quarterback, Jake Rudock, is efficient, completing 64 percent of his passes, but really isn’t a stretch the field guy, only averaging 228 yards per game this season. And it isn’t like they are making up their offensive money on the ground. The lead back, De’Veon Smith, has gained 670 yards off of just 155 carries. They have an effective offense in terms of balance, but it’s not that side of the ball where the bread is buttered, it’s the defense that’s the real deal. The Michigan defense isn’t in the business of giving anything away to the opposing team, surrendering only 281 yards per game, and giving up 17 points per. They buckle down on third downs too, allowing a first down on third downs only a fourth of the time. The Gators aren’t great at passing, so do not expect Florida to even test Jourdan Lewis, with his two interceptions and much more impressively 19 pass breakups.
If anyone out there watched the SEC title game, you’ll know what the Gators’ problem is throwing the football. If Michigan takes the run away from Florida, or at least discourages them from it, that’s going to put the onus on Treon Harris, and that really didn’t help in the title game. Completing only about 52 percent of his throws, he’ll have to be on his game to overcome himself. But like Michigan, the main course is the defense. Allowing statistically fewer points per game than Michigan, and in the business of taking the ball away, creating 14 interceptions and forcing 16 fumbles, recovering 11 of them. Vernon Hargreaves is going to be a high draft pick in April, but needs a bounce back game after making Jake Coker look like Joe Namath.
Prediction: Michigan 21 – Florida 16. Michigan has a player on defense named Taco, simple as that.