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Posts Tagged ‘Citrus Bowl’

Tailgate Tuesday: Gator kabobs

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Tailgate Tuesday_BowlWeek

Tailgate Tuesday is our weekly collaboration with Joe Pichey from GoBlueBBQ. These tailgate recipes will be posted each Tuesday throughout the football season and most of the time will be themed around that week’s opponent. Meat Church, a Dallas, Texas based BBQ joint sponsors this feature by providing their killer rubs for use in the recipes. Buy them here. Seriously, you won’t regret it.

Previously: Frog legssmoky spiced beaver nutsbuild the perfect tailgate smokerpig shotslamb shankflat iron fajitascountry style ribs with bock glazepork belly sliderssmoked bolognasmoked eggsgrilled shrimp and scallops, planked brie with cranberry chutney, or visit our whole library of recipes here.

It’s our last recipe of the year, so let’s go out with a bang. SInce we are facing the Florida Gators, Justin suggested I find some gator meat and come up with a tasty treat for the Citrus Bowl. I think we have done that and hope you will give this one a try. It’s healthy, tender and extremely flavorful. I recommend that if you can find gator in your local meat or seafood market, you pick some up and toss it on the grill.


1 pound gator tail meat (cut into 1-inch cubes)
Polish sausage


1 cup OJ
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup of Meat Church Hot Honey Hog Rub
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 TBSP ground black pepper


Add marinade ingredients to deep bowl and mix well. Reserve a half cup for basting later. Add gator tail pieces. Let marinate in the fridge for at least six hours but no more than 12. The acid in the OJ will start to cook the meat if you leave it on too long.

The gator tail is nice pinkish color and will darken after hours in the marinade. Once you add the OJ and the gator, we officially have a “CITRUS BOWL”. RIM SHOT. I couldn’t resist.

After 6-12 hours in the saucy goodness, start to skewer with your favorite veggies. I love onions and mushrooms along with some polish sausage for this recipe. Once they pieces are all on a stick, sprinkle with some Meat Church Fajita Rub.

Gator Kabobs 1-2-3

Set your grill up for high heat. These will cook for about 5-7 minutes per side. These skewers get hot, so wear some gloves. Learn from my mistakes.

As the kabobs are grilling, baste with the reserved marinade. This will also add some flavor to the sausage and the veggies.

After 10-12 minutes total, remove from the direct heat. I like to let these rest for about five minutes and serve over white rice. The flavor is a combo or chicken and pork and also has a very dense texture.

Gator kabobs 4-5

These were served my new Michigan platter from Wilton Armetale. They make some fantastic grill ware and have a huge selection of Michigan product. Check them out. Don’t forget to check out the selection of Meat Church rubs as well. He’s been a great sponsor this year and makes fantastic rubs.

Gator kabobs 6-7


Visit Meat Church to purchase their new Bacon BBQ rub or any of their other great rubs and seasonings. You can follow them on Twitter at @MeatChurch and you can also follow Joe at @mmmgoblubbq.

First Look: Florida

Monday, December 28th, 2015


After a month-long break, Michigan hits the field for one last time this season on Friday in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The Wolverines have a chance to win 10 games in a season for just the fourth time since 2000, as well as a chance to pick up another win over an SEC foe. Michigan faces Florida, a program that has had a very similar past year with an underachieving 2014 that led to the firing of their coach, and then a resurgence under their new coach. Let’s take a look at the Gators.

Florida team stats & Michigan comparison
Florida | Michigan Rank Defense Rank
Points Per Game 24.5 | 30.6 98 57
16.5 17.2 8 11
Rushing Yards 1,659 1,832 1,568 1,471
Rush Avg. Per Game 127.6 152.7 113 92
120.6 122.6 17 18
Avg. Per Rush 3.4 | 4.1
3.4 3.6
Passing Yards 2,744 2,812 2,272 1,905
Pass Avg. Per Game 211.1 234.3 78 54 174.8 158.8 11 3
Total Offense 4,403 4,644 3,840 3,376
Total Off Avg. Per Game 338.7 387.0 109 72 295.4 281.3 6 4
Kick Return Average 20.8 28.4 72 3 20.24 20.21 43 | 41
Punt Return Average 13.9 11.4 11 31 3.7 11.5 17 96
Avg. Time of Possession 31:43 | 33:02 29 | 13
28:17 | 26:58
3rd Down Conversion Pct 35.0% | 44.0% 103 26
31.0% | 26.0% 12 | 3
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 43-250 | 18-95
121 | T37
40-294 | 30-226
9 | T34
Touchdowns Scored 43 45
25 | 23
Field Goals-Attempts 7-17 16-20
13-18 | 15-18
Red Zone Scores (33-48) 69%|(46-49) 94% 123 6
(25-32) 78%|(26-31) 84% 30 69
Red Zone Touchdowns (28-48) 58%|(33-49) 67% (15-32) 47%|(13-31) 42%

Florida is very similar to Michigan statistically. Both feature one of the nation’s top defenses and middling offenses. Florida is slightly better in scoring defense, allowing 16.5 points per game compared to Michigan’s 17.2. The Ohio State game hurt Michigan in that regard, dropping the Wolverines from sixth nationally to 11th. While Michigan let OSU score 42 points and also gave up 41 to Indiana, Florida allowed more than 30 points just once all season, a 35-28 loss to LSU. However, the Gators didn’t record a shutout and Michigan posted three straight early in the season.

Both teams’ rushing defenses are about the same with Florida allowing two fewer yards per game on the ground. Only three teams eclipsed 200 yards rushing against the Gators, Tennessee with 254, LSU with 221, and Alabama with 233. Alabama’s Derrick Henry likely locked up the Heisman trophy with a 44-carry, 189-yard performance against Florida in the SEC Championship game. LSU’s Leonard Fornett, a Heisman candidate for most of the season, tallied 180 yards on 31 carries against the Gators, while Tennessee had two 100-yard rushers — quarterback Joshua Dobbs (136) and running back Jalen Hurd (102). Unfortunately, Michigan’s rushing game isn’t poised to have as much success on the ground.

Florida’s pass defense, however, is slightly more susceptible, though still ranking among the nation’s best. The Gators rank 11th nationally, allowing 16 more passing yards per game than Michigan. Four opponents topped 200 yards passing, led by East Carolina’s 346 in Week 2. The best passing offense Florida faced all season, Ole Miss, threw for 259 yards. Florida’s corners, Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Tabor, form one of the nation’s best duos and will be a tough match for Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh.

Offensively, Florida isn’t nearly as scary. They’re fairly similar statistically to where Penn State and Minnesota were when Michigan faced them this season — in the bottom third nationally in most categories. They score just 24.5 points per game, six fewer than Michigan. A 61-13 throttling of New Mexico State in the season opener inflated the average as the Gators topped 30 points just twice the rest of the way, a 31-24 win over East Carolina the following week and a 38-10 win over Ole Miss in Week 5. Since then, Florida has averaged just 18.3 points in their final eight games. They managed just nine points in a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt, then were held to a measly two in a 27-2 loss to rival Florida State.

The running game is even more nonexistent than Michigan’s, averaging 25 fewer yards per game. The Gators’ best output was a 258-yard performance against Georgia — one of only two times they cracked 200 yards. The other was in the opener against NMSU. They were held below 100 yards four times, most recently 15 yards on 21 carries in the SEC title game against Alabama. Only 14 teams nationally average fewer yards per game than Florida, none of which Michigan faced. The closest, BYU, ranks one spot ahead of Florida, and Michigan held the Cougars to just 50 yards on 22 carries.

The passing game is slightly better, but it was more dynamic under Will Grier, who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and three interceptions in the first six games before being suspended for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Sophomore Treon Harris replaced him, but has completed just 49.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and five picks since then. He threw for 271 yards in his first start against LSU, but managed 200 yards just once in the final six games. Alabama’s defense held him to just 9-of-24 for 165 yards.

As far as intangibles go, Florida converts just 35 percent of its third downs (103rd nationally) compared to Michigan’s 44 percent. They also have allowed 43 sacks — more than all but six teams nationally. For perspective, Penn State has allowed 39. The Gators gave up five sacks in a game five times, including each of the last three, and allowed three or more sacks in eight of 13 games. On the flip side, the Gators rank 12th nationally in third down defense (31 percent) and ninth nationally with 40 sacks — 10 more than Michigan’s defense has recorded.

On special teams, Florida is an average 72nd in kick returns, averaging eight fewer yards per return than Michigan. However, they are dynamic in the punt return game, averaging 13.9 yards per returns. They’ve returned two punts for touchdowns this season. The Gators are also solid against punt returns, allowing just 3.7 yards per, which ranks 11th nationally. If the game comes down to the kicking game, Michigan should have the advantage as Florida has made just 7-of-17 field goals with a long of 43, and has missed the last five attempts. Three of those 10 misses have been blocked.

Overall, it should be a pretty even game with two great defenses and two average offenses. Michigan has the advantage offensively, but will have to be able to have at least some success on the ground against a very stingy rush defense. It should be a low scoring game, but regardless of the outcome, it’s two tradition-rich programs on the rise and it’s exciting to be playing on New Year’s Day once again.

Michigan to face Florida in Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Michigan vs Florida header

The Citrus Bowl held the highest non-New Years Six Big Ten bowl selection and chose Michigan over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon. The Wolverines will face SEC East champion Florida, who fell to Alabama in Saturday’s SEC Championship game, on New Year’s Day. Let’s take a look at the two teams.

Meet the teams

After winning nine games in their first season under Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, the Michigan Wolverines will play against the Florida Gators in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, officials announced Sunday afternoon.

Michigan finished the regular season with a trio of excellent victories and a near-flawless road resume. The gem on its resume came in early October, when Michigan smashed the now 10-2 Northwestern Wildcats, 38-0. That victory gave the Wolverines a third consecutive shutout, a streak kicked off by a 31-0 win over BYU, which finished the season 9-3. The Cougars were five total points away from being 11-1, so that victory remains one of the most impressive of the nonconference season for power five teams.

Treon Harris

Unfortunately, Michigan’s season was hampered by a pick six against Utah in the opener, a blocked punt in the final seconds against Michigan State and a blowout loss last Saturday against Ohio State. All three of those losses came to ranked teams, but if Michigan could’ve won two of those games, it would be lobbying for a College Football Playoff berth.

Most impressively, Michigan exorcized its road-game demons and went 4-0 in Big Ten games away from the Big House. The Wolverines completely outclass a Penn State team that was previously unbeaten in Happy Valley and picked up road wins over pesky Minnesota and Indiana squads. Even the win at Maryland turned heads as the Terps failed to score on Michigan’s defense and gained only 105 total yards.

It was an unexpected comeback season for the Wolverines, rivaled only by a similar campaign for the Gators.

Florida’s season started off on the same path as Michigan’s. First-year Gators Head Coach Jim McElwain brought his group storming out of the gates, winning six straight games and jumping into the top 10 with a 38-10 win over then-No. 3 Ole Miss.

But Florida’s season was defined off the field, where starting quarterback Will Grier remained after being suspended for testing positive for PEDs. The freshman completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 1,204 yards and 10 touchdowns en route to a 6-0 start, but his season ended on Oct. 12 when the NCAA announced his suspension.

Treon Harris took the reins and immediately saw the Gators’ perfect record slip away. Florida lost a shootout to LSU in the Bayou and struggled to season’s end. After dismantling rival Georgia to bounce back from their first loss, the Gators nearly fell to Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic.

Vanderbilt, a team that surrendered 53 points to Tennessee in its final game and finished the year 4-8, held Florida to just nine points and fell about 20 yards short of attempting a game-winning field goal in the waning seconds.

Similarly, South Carolina trailed Florida by just three points with under five minutes to play. How good is South Carolina? The week after losing to Florida, the Gamecocks lost at home to The Citadel.

But the most alarming win for McElwain’s team came over 3-9 Florida Atlantic University in overtime. The Owls went into the Swamp and came within one incomplete pass of beating Florida in the upset of the season. Instead, Florida survived for a third straight week.

That streak came to a screeching halt in Rivalry Week. Florida State marched into the Swamp and crushed the Gators, 27-2. For Florida, it was only the second loss of the season, but verified the obvious faults that were exposed against the teams mentioned above.

Florida fought hard against Alabama on Saturday, but couldn’t come away with an SEC Championship, instead losing 29-15.

Scouting report

Since Grier’s suspension, Harris has held back a formerly potent Florida offense. He completed 51.9 percent of his passes in six games, throwing nine touchdowns and five picks. He does pose a threat in the running game, rushing for 332 yards and three touchdowns.

Kelvin Taylor took over as the top scorer when Grier got suspended, finishing the season with 985 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged only four yards per carry, but 200-pound junior can really wear down a defense.

The heart of this team is the defense, which ranks eighth in the country in terms of points allowed. Opponents average only 16.5 points per game against the stout Gators D, which is led by a stout defensive line. It stops the pass and rush equally and picked up 40 sacks this year (fourth-most in the nation).

Florida’s downfall is its horrendous kicking game, which makes even extra points an adventure. Austin Harden made only five of 14 field goal attempts this season, including four of 10 from closer than 40 yards. McElwain is hesitant to even attempt a kick longer than 40 yards, which further cripples a stagnant offense. Harden has missed five straight kicks heading into the Citrus Bowl, so his confidence is also a major issue.

Way too early prediction

This clearly sets up as a low-scoring defensive battle in Orlando. Assuming Jake Rudock is a full-go by Jan. 1, Michigan clearly comes into the game with the more dangerous offense. Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh and Jake Butt might be the best trio of pass catchers the Gators see all year, but the Wolverines will continue to struggle offensively if they can’t rush the ball.

On defense, I’ll give the edge to Florida. Indiana and Ohio State exposed Michigan’s interior defensive line in the running game, and if Harris and Taylor put up even half of the numbers J.T. Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott did in The Game, Florida will gain a major edge.

We’ll see what happens over the next three weeks, but this looks like a fairly even battle. With Rudock healthy, I give the early slight edge to Michigan over the Grier-less Gators. And even though McElwain did a phenomenal job in his first season at Florida, it’s hard to pick against Harbaugh with a month to prepare.

Michigan’s potential bowl matchups

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Citrus Bowl

The last 12 months have been a roller coaster ride for the University of Michigan in terms of bowl aspirations. After dropping its final two games in 2014, the Wolverines failed to qualify for postseason play for the third time in seven years. Fast forward to just over a week ago, and Jim Harbaugh’s team had an outside chance to land in the College Football Playoff.

But after being blown out at home by Ohio State and finishing the season at 9-3, the 2015 Wolverines sit somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Michigan’s resume is impressive, but the Big Ten is loaded with elite teams at the top.

Michigan State will move on to the final four while Iowa and Ohio State will land in New Year’s Six bowls – likely the Rose Bowl and an at-large bid.

Once those three top 10 teams are placed, Michigan and Northwestern are the remaining ranked teams in the conference. So how does it work from there? Since the Orange Bowl is hosting one of the national semifinal (playoff) games, the Big Ten will send a team to the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida.

I think the Citrus Bowl is Michigan’s most likely destination, though the Big Ten has to approve the bowl’s request before anything is finalized. Formerly the Capital One Bowl, the Citrus Bowl is an upper-tier bowl that pits a Big Ten school against an SEC school.

Potential Citrus Bowl matchups

Florida vs. Michigan: Since the Gators couldn’t upset the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game, Alabama will move on to the College Football Playoff and leave Florida as the top non-final four team in the conference. Florida’s Cinderella season lost most of its steam when starting quarterback Will Grier was suspended for using a banned substance. In the final four weeks of the regular season, Florida nearly lost to Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida Atlantic before getting crushed and failing to score on offense against Florida State. Though the Gators did win the East, they aren’t trending in a direction that will make them a sexy bowl pick. But if these teams do meet, it would be a rematch of Lloyd Carr’s last game as Michigan’s coach, when the Wolverines won an entertaining shootout over Tim Tebow and the Gators.

Ole Miss vs. Michigan: Mississippi got dumped by Florida, 38-10, back in October, but the final few weeks of the season could give the Rebels a leg up on the Gators in the bowl selection process. Ole Miss has a road win over Alabama on its resume, the crowned jewel on an otherwise average resume. The Rebels lost to Memphis and Arkansas but picked up a pair of solid wins over LSU and Mississippi State to close out the season. Michigan has struggled to stop the run since losing Ryan Glasgow from the defensive line, but Ole Miss is led by quarterback Chad Kelly, who would meet one of the best secondary units in the country in this matchup.

If Michigan isn’t picked for the Citrus Bowl, it would likely head about 100 miles southwest to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The Outback Bowl will host five different Big Ten teams from 2014-2019, so Michigan could land here for the second time in four seasons. The Wolverines lost a shootout with South Carolina in the Outback Bowl under Brady Hoke on Jan. 1, 2013. Like the Citrus Bowl, the Outback Bowl would match Michigan up with an SEC team.

Potential Outback Bowl matchups

LSU vs. Michigan: The Les Miles vs. Michigan storyline would give this matchup a little extra steam, but LSU was dreadful during the second half of the season. Three straight blowouts at the hands of Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss proved that if you can stop running back Leonard Fournette, you can roll past the Tigers.

Mississippi State vs. Michigan: If this matchup brings back bad memories for Michigan fans, that’s because Mississippi State was responsible for putting the nail in the coffin to send Rich Rodriguez out of Ann Arbor. It took Michigan three seasons to make a bowl game under Rich Rod, and when it did, the Bulldogs smashed the Wolverines 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.

Georgia vs. Michigan: I really don’t see this happening, because Georgia would have to be selected above some of the much more impressive teams in the SEC West, but the Bulldogs did finish second in the East. Though Georgia won nine games and reportedly hired Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to replace Mark Richt, this team might be a bit of a mess in the bowl game.

The only other potential landing spot for Michigan would likely be the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The Holiday Bowl is the final top-tier bowl game with a Big Ten tie, and it would give Michigan a chance to play a Pac-12 team.

Potential Holiday Bowl matchups

USC vs. Michigan: USC put up a bit of a fight against Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game, but the Trojans finished the disappointing season with five losses. At times, like in a runaway win over Utah, USC’s elite talent shone through and it looked nearly unbeatable. But Pat Hayden’s crew is very hit-or-miss, especially after a month of preparation.

Oregon vs. Michigan: This is definitely not a matchup Michigan wants to see. With Vernon Adams back healthy at quarterback, Oregon’s offense is rolling and the Ducks are extremely dangerous. Michigan would have to win a shootout to win this matchup, a tall task against a team like Oregon.

The College Football Selection Show will air on ESPN at 12:30pm Eastern time today, beginning with the playoff teams and pairings. The rest of the New Year’s Six bowl pairings will be announced along with the rest of the Top 25. Michigan will know its destination and opponent by this evening, so stay tuned for a preview.