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Posts Tagged ‘Jim McElwain’

#11 Michigan 33 – #17 Florida 17: Second half surge, dominant defense carry U-M

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017


(Kevin Goheen, Land of 10)

The first game of the season is always a bit of a mystery as teams break in new players and work out some kinks as they hit the field for the first time after months of preparation. Ohio State struggled with Indiana in the first half before pulling away in the second. Washington struggled with Rutgers and Wisconsin struggled with Utah State on Friday night before both pulled away.

Michigan was one of the few ranked teams nationally to face a ranked power-five opponent, and despite having their share of struggles in the first half, dominated the second half to claim a resounding 33-17 win.

Final Stats
Michigan  Florida
Score 33 17
Record 1-0 0-1
Total Yards 433 192
Net Rushing Yards 215 11
Net Passing Yards 218 181
First Downs 19 9
Turnovers 2 3
Penalties-Yards 7-55 5-45
Punts-Yards 3-82 6-328
Time of Possession 34:13 25:47
Third Down Conversions 6-of-18 2-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 1-of-1 1-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 6-35 5-22
Field Goals 4-for-6 1-for-2
PATs 3-for-3 2-for-2
Red Zone Scores-Chances 3-of-4 0-of-0
Full Box Score

Florida took the opening kickoff and went 46 yards in six plays for a 46-yard field goal, but Michigan’s defense held the Gators to just 146 total yards and no points the last 57 minutes of the game. It was a performance that put to rest — at least for now — the notion that the Wolverines’ defense would take a step back after losing 10 starters. The new look defense recorded six sacks, forced five turnovers (three recovered), and held Florida to just 192 total yards and only 11 yards on the ground. Florida’s offense wasn’t held below 200 yards all season a year ago.

Michigan’s offense, meanwhile, had its highs and lows but ultimately turned in a positive performance against one of the best defenses they’ll face all season. The first drive of the season yielded points on a 25-yard Quinn Nordin field goal that capped a 14-play, 68-yard drive. On the next possession, Chris Evans broke loose for a 29-yard run and on the very next play, Wilton Speight connected with freshman receiver Tarik Black for a 46-yard touchdown.

But the fun didn’t last for long as Speight threw back to back interceptions returned for touchdowns and suddenly the Wolverines trailed 17-10. Two possessions later, with John O’Korn in for Speight, Nordin showed off the big leg that earned him the top kicker of the 2016 class ranking, nailing a 55-yard field goal. Florida’s normally reliable kicker, Eddy Pinero, missed a 47-yarder on the ensuing possession and Florida took a 17-13 lead into the half.

The second half was all Michigan as the Wolverines took the first possession 75 yards on 10 plays for a 3-yard Karan Higdon touchdown to retake the lead. Freshman Ambry Thomas forced and recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and Michigan tacked on a 30-yard Nordin field goal.

Michigan’s defense forced its second fumble of the game three plays later when Josh Metellus stripped quarterback Feleipe Franks and Lawrence Marshall recovered at the Florida 31-yard line. The offense was unable to move the ball and Nordin kicked a 50-yard field goal, becoming the first kicker in Michigan history to boot two field goals of 50 yards or more in the same game.

In the fourth quarter, Nordin missed from 52 yards and 32 yards to keep Florida within reach, but the Michigan defense closed it out with a Chase Winovich sack of backup quarterback Malik Zaire, who fumbled and Noah Furbush recovered in the end zone for a Michigan touchdown.

All told, the Michigan offense put up 433 total yards in a balanced effort, rushing for 215 yards on 4.4 yards per carry against a stout Florida front seven and passing for 218. Speight completed 11-of-25 passes for 181 yards, one touchdown, and two picks. Ty Isaac led Michigan on the ground with 114 yards on just 11 carries (10.4 yards per carry), while Evans 78 yards on 22 carries (3.5 ypc). Black caught two passes for 83 yards and one score. Grant Perry had the most receptions with four for 46 yards.

Defensively, Devin Bush was all over the field, finishing with seven tackles (five solo), three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Winovich, Mike McCray, Josh Uche, and Khaleke Hudson all recorded a sack as well.

Michigan hosts Cincinnati in its home opener next Saturday at 12pm. The Bearcats, under first-year head coach Luke Fickell, beat Austin Peay 26-14 to open the season.

Game Ball – Offense

Quinn Nordin (4-of-6 field goals, 2-of-3 from 50-plus)
One of the big question marks for Michigan entering the season was the special teams play, especially at kicker where the reliable Kenny Allen had to be replaced. I said in my game preview that Florida had a big edge in this category, but Nordin put those fears to rest by nailing his first three field goals of the day, two of which were from 50 yards and beyond. Sure, he missed two in the fourth quarter, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt after his performance prior to that. The Michigan career record for field goals of 50 or more yards is four by Hayden Epstein from 1998-2001. In his first career game, Nordin made half of that, tying him with Mike Gillette, J.D. Carlson, Mike Lantry, and Jay Feely for third all-time.

Game Ball – Defense

Devin Bush (7 tackles, 5 solo, 3 tackles for loss, 2 sacks)
With only one returning starter on defense, Michigan needed some of its young talent to emerge and Bush did just that. He looked good in limited time as a true freshman in 2016, but shined in his first start. It almost didn’t happen as he was flagged for a late hit on the game’s first play. The play was reviewed for targeting, which would have ejected him form the game, but the officials ruled that it wasn’t. Good thing, because he was all over the field, recording seven tackles, three for loss, and two sacks.

Four Bold Predictions Results

Two good:
• Wilton Speight looks solid and throws for 250 yards as Michigan’s passing game looks exciting 
– Speight was up and down, making a nice 46-yard touchdown pass to Tarik Black on Michigan’s second possession, but then throwing two pick-sixes. The first wasn’t necessarily his fault — it was a little high but should have been caught by Kekoa Crawford — but the second was a straight overthrow. That led directly to 14 Florida points, the only two touchdowns the Gators scored. Speight finished with 181 yards but completed just 44 percent of his passes. The good news is that he gets to face a few less than stellar defenses in the coming weeks to gain his rhythm heading into the meat of the schedule.

• Chris Evans starts and runs well, but Karan Higdon leads the Wolverines in rushing 
– I’m giving myself a push on this one as I was right that Evans wouldn’t lead the team in rushing, but I predicted the wrong guy. Higdon did record Michigan’s lone rushing touchdown, but he was third with 28 yards gained on seven carries. Ty Isaac led the way with 114 yards on 111 carries, while Evans tallied 78 yards on 22 carries. Isaac was the surprise of the game offensively, looking like a much stronger runner than he did last season.

Two bad: 
• Michigan’s young secondary struggles but the pass rush, led by Chase Winovich, mitigates the damage 
– I’ll give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one. The defense performed admirably all game, holding Florida to just three points and 192 total yards. But if there is one nit-pick it is that the young secondary gave up a few deep balls. Brandon Watson and Lavert Hill each got beat a couple of times by Florida’s receivers. Franks is far from the best quarterback the Wolverines will face this season, so they’ll have to shore that up before heading to Happy Valley in mid-October. The pass rush got to Florida quarterbacks six times including the game-sealing sack and forced fumble by Winovich that resulted in a Michigan touchdown.

• Two missed Michigan field goals keep the game closer than it should be 
– This appeared to be a bad prediction through the first three quarters when sophomore kicker Quinn Nordin nailed his first three field goals, two of which were from 50 yards or beyond. But he came back down to earth a bit in the fourth quarter with two missed field goals that did keep Florida in the game. Nordin did, however, ease some concerns about the placekicking job in Kenny Allen’s absence.

#11 Michigan vs #17 Florida game preview

Friday, September 1st, 2017


The long offseason is finally over. When we wake up tomorrow morning College Gameday will fill our TV screens and college football will be upon us. Sure, it started last weekend with a few tomato can games and Ohio State and Indiana gave us a nice little appetizer on Thursday night, but tomorrow is the first full Saturday of the season. Most importantly, it’s the first Michigan football game of the season.

Quick Facts
AT&T Stadium – 3:30p.m. EST – ABC
Florida Head Coach: Jim McElwain (3rd season)
Coaching Record: 41-24 overall (19-8 at UF)
Offensive Coordinators: Doug Nussmeier (3rd season)
Defensive Coordinator: Randy Shannon (1st season)
Last Season: 9-4 (6-2)
Last Meeting: Michigan 41 – UF 7 (2016)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-0
Record in regular season: First meeting
Jim Harbaugh vs Florida 1-0
Last Michigan win: Jan 1, 2016 (41-7)
Last Florida win: Never
Current Streak: Michigan 3

For the second straight game, Michigan faces a team from the state of Florida. The Wolverines closed the 2016 season with a 33-32 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl and now faces Florida to open the 2017 season. Michigan is 3-0 all-time against the Gators with the most recent win coming at the end of the 2015 season when Michigan throttled Florida 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl. This will be the teams’ first regular season meeting as they also faced off in the 2003 Outback Bowl and the 2008 Capital One Bowl.

Florida has had an eventful offseason that will leave them shorthanded on Saturday. Seven players were initially announced as suspended when news came of a debit card scheme involving using school-issued funds and then trying to claim them lost or stolen. Starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway was among them. Then, just this week, two more players were announced as suspended for the same issue, including starting running back Jordan Scarlett. Freshman wide receiver was suspended for a separate incident involving marijuana possession.

That leaves ten Gators on the sidelines for Saturday and puts Michigan in a bad position. If the Wolverines win, pundits will place an asterisk next to it because Florida wasn’t at full speed. Remember last December when Michigan was penalized for beating Colorado without Sifo Liufau — who the Wolverines knocked out of the game — and beating Penn State without a couple of starting linebackers. If the Wolverines lose, it won’t go down as a “good loss” at the end of the season, but rather, will look worse since Florida was depleted.

Regardless, Michigan can do only what it can control, and that is win the game by as many points as possible; leave no doubt who the better team is, suspensions be damned.

Most national pundits have been predicting a Florida win based on the number of starters and production Michigan lost to the NFL in the offseason. But Jim Harbaugh’s third squad figures to be faster and more athletic than his first two and there is still plenty of talent — albeit young — remaining to keep the Wolverines in the hunt for the Big Ten title. Tomorrow’s game won’t change that, but it has a chance to set the tone for the season and put the college football landscape on notice. Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Florida offense

Michigan fans will remember Florida offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who coordinated the Michigan offense in Brady Hoke’s final season. He was the big hire in the 2014 offseason out of Alabama as Hoke’s final attempt to right the ship, but his offense failed to produce a winning season. He hasn’t had much success at Florida either, guiding the Gators to the 111th and 116th-best total offense and 100th and 107th best scoring offense in his first two seasons.

Nussmeier finds himself in a quarterback quandary entering 2017 and will start redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks, who has yet to play a college game. The 6-foot-6, 219-pound Crawfordville, Fla. native threw three interceptions in his first four passes in the 2016 spring game, but had a much better spring this year, completing 8-of-14 for 119 yards and a touchdown. With good size, he also has decent mobility and reportedly has a big arm, and that was enough for head coach Jim McElwain to name him the starter over Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire and upperclassman Luke Del Rio. It’s a pretty good bet to assume that Zaire will see the field as well due to his experience.

Wish Scarlett sidelined, Florida will turn to sophomore Lamical Perine, who rushed for 421 yards on 91 carries (4.6 yards per carry) and one touchdown last season. He was one of just eight FBS true freshmen to rush for 100 yards in multiple games against Power Five opponents last season when he recorded 105 against Kentucky and 106 against Missouri.

Even with Callaway suspended, Florida boasts a deep collection of talent at receiver that will test Michigan’s young and inexperienced secondary. Sophomores Tyrie Cleveland (14 catches, 298 yards, 2 touchdowns), Josh Hammond (14 catches, 177 yards), and Freddie Swain (8 catches, 118 yards, 2 touchdowns) are all former four-star recruits, and senior Brandon Powell (45 catches, 387 yards, 2 touchdowns) was the team’s second-leading receiver last season out of the slot. Both tight ends, senior DeAndre Goolsby (38 catches, 342 yards, 3 touchdowns) and junior C’yontai Lewis (18 catches, 184 yards, 2 touchdowns) are also back.

The Florida offensive line has been pretty poor the past few seasons but there is optimism around Gainesville for a step forward this fall. Junior Martez Ivey, the No. 2 overall player in the 2015 class, is locked in at left tackle, while Jawaan Taylor is back at right tackle after starting 12 games as a true freshman last season. Redshirt sophomore center T.J. McCoy started four games last season, while true freshman Brett Heggie has looked good in the offseason and junior Fredrick Johnson, who has 10 career starts, are the guards.

Florida defense

Like Michigan, Florida has boasted one of the nation’s best defenses the past couple years, but McElwain’s defensive coordinator from those two seasons, Geoff Collins, bolted for the Temple head coaching position in the offseason. Up steps Randy Shannon, who has been on the staff as associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator, and linebackers coach the past two seasons.

Shannon was perhaps college football’s best defensive coordinator in the 2000s, guiding Miami’s defenses to 6th, 7th, 2nd, 28th, 4th, and 7th from 2001-06. He became head coach in 2007 but had just middling success and has worked his way back up since then through TCU, Arkansas, and now Florida.

He inherits the nation’s 5th-best total defense and 6th-best scoring defense from 2016, but has some holes to fill, most notably in the secondary where cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson and safety Marcus Maye are gone. Another safety, Marcell Harris, who started eight games last season, tore his Achilles in the offseason is out for the year.

McElwain said on Thursday that there could be four freshmen playing at a time in the secondary on Saturday. Marco Wilson, a four-star recruit in the most recent class, is likely to be one of them getting the nod at one corner spot, while senior Duke Dawson is the elder statesman of the group, having started eight career games. Fifth-year senior Nick Washington, who has started 10 games over the past three seasons, and sophomore Chauncey Gardner, who started the final three games last season, are the likely starters at safety.

Linebacker is another position that has some holes to fill, replacing Alex Anzalone and Jarrad Davis, who combined for 113 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, and five sacks. Farmington, Mich. native David Reese, and redshirt sophomore Kylan Johnson are the most experienced returning linebackers, having started the last four and five games of the season, respectively. Reese finished the season as the team’s fifth-leading tackler and is ready to step in as the middle linebacker. Johnson recorded 26 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in the final five games. Sophomore Vosean Joseph is the other assumed starter. He played mostly on special teams last season but earned his first career start in the Outback Bowl against Iowa and recorded six tackles and one for loss.

The defensive line is the most experienced position group returning, though it does have to replace tackles Caleb Brantley and Joey Ivie. Redshirt junior Taven Bryan is in line to start at defensive tackle and has three starts under his belt the past two seasons, while fellow redshirt junior Khairi Clark should get the nod at nose tackle. Sophomore CeCe Jefferson and redshirt sophomore Jabari Zuniga are the starting ends. Jefferson was the No. 7 overall recruit in the 2015 class. Fifth-year senior Jordan Sherit, who recorded five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks last season, will also be a key part of the rotation.

Florida special teamsM

While Michigan lost both its kicker and punter, Kenny Allen, Florida returns two good ones in sophomore kicker Eddy Pinero and fifth-year senior punter Johnny Townsend. Pinero connected on 21-of-25 field goal attempts as a true freshman last season including all three tries from 50-plus. Townsend led the nation with a 47.9-yard punting average. Powell or redshirt freshman receiver Dre Massey will handle punt return duties in Callaway’s absence. Powell averaged 4.6 yards per return a year ago. Massey may be in the running to handle kickoff returns as well.

Analysis

As a new feature of our weekly game preview this year, we will break down each unit battle to determine where each team has an edge, and by how much. These will be graded on a 1-10 scale where five is a push, one is a clear advantage for Florida, and 10 is a clear advantage for Michigan.

Florida run game vs Michigan rush defense
Florida Michigan 

Even with Scarlett in the Florida backfield, Michigan’s stout rush defense would still hold the edge, but with Scarlett out the Wolverines should have no trouble shutting down the Florida running game. Michigan held eight of 13 opponents under 100 yards rushing last season and the Gators ranked 113th nationally in rushing.

Florida passing game vs Michigan pass defense
Florida  Michigan

Florida gets a very slight edge here because of their returning talent at receiver and tight end. Michigan has a lot of talent in the secondary, but at this point it’s unproven, so like Ohio State’s young corners on Thursday night, it could struggle a bit in the opener.

The reason Florida doesn’t have more of an edge is the uncertainty at the quarterback position. Feleipe is mobile and has a big arm, but has no experience and will have to deal with Rashan Gary and the rest of the Michigan pass rush. If Florida’s offensive line is able to hold it off, Florida could put up a big passing number on Saturday. But I’d say Michigan’s pass rush is able to keep Feleipe off balance enough to make this a close position battle.

Florida rush defense vs Michigan running game
Florida Michigan

I’m giving this one a push because the improvement of Michigan’s offensive line is one of the biggest question marks heading into the season. Florida doesn’t quite have the depth it had last year on the defensive line and the run defense wasn’t their strength anyway.

While the defense as a whole was one of the nation’s best, the run defense ranked just 38th nationally. Five of the final eight opponents last season rushed for over 200 yards against Florida, and although Michigan’s running game wasn’t outstanding, it still ranked 33rd and it should be better this year with a sophomore Chris Evans in addition to Karan Higdon, Ty Issac, and Kareem Walker. If Michigan’s offensive line is significantly improved, Michigan has the edge here, but that’s still an unknown.

Florida pass defense vs Michigan passing game
Florida Michigan 

This unit battle is an interesting one simply because of all of the unknowns. Michigan lost most of its receiving production in Jehu Chesson, Amara Darboh, and Jake Butt, and Florida lost most of its top-notch secondary. But Wilton Speight gives Michigan the edge here as the one consistent piece of the passing game. He faltered down the stretch last season after suffering an injury against Iowa, but has the experience to help his new young receivers come along against a young and inexperienced secondary.

Florida special teams vs Michigan special teams
Florida  Michigan

If the game comes down to a last-second field goal, are we confident that sophomore Quinn Nordin can make it? He was the nation’s top kicker in the 2016 class and has a big leg, but has yet to see the field. He made a 48-yarder in the spring game, but that’s not the same as the atmosphere he will face on Saturday. Pinero, meanwhile, was ultra-reliable for the Gators last season, especially from long range.

Florida has the edge at punter as well with the nation’s top returning punter. The return game is anyone’s guess. Michigan will have to replace Chesson and Jabrill Peppers and Florida will be without Callaway. Because of experience in the kicking game, Florida has a good edge here.

Coaching
Florida Michigan 

Jim McElwain has had success everywhere he has been, turning Colorado State from a doormat to a Mountain West contender in three seasons, and then reigniting a stagnant Florida program with nine-plus wins in each of his first two seasons after the Gators had just one in the previous five. But Jim Harbaugh has a longer resume, having achieved similar rebuilding jobs at San Diego, Stanford, the San Francisco 49ers, and now Michigan. He took the 49ers to the Super Bowl, won a BCS bowl at Stanford, and lead Michigan to back-to-back 10-win seasons after inheriting a team that went 5-7 in 2014. Also, Harbaugh whipped McElwain in the 2016 Citrus Bowl so he holds the head-to-head edge as well.

Atmosphere and intangibles
Florida Michigan

Although AT&T Stadium is geographically closer to Gainesville than Ann Arbor, Michigan fans will travel well and represent the Wolverines in Dallas. The neutral site gives neither team the advantage. How each team responds to the big stage and the Jerry World dome will be interesting to watch, but both are young so neither team has the edge there either.

Edge Average: Michigan 5.3 – Florida 4.7
Score Prediction: Michigan 27 – Florida 16
Four bold predictions:

Two good:
• Wilton Speight looks solid and throws for 250 yards as Michigan’s passing game looks exciting
• Chris Evans starts and runs well, but Karan Higdon leads the Wolverines in rushing
Two bad: 
• Michigan’s young secondary struggles but the pass rush, led by Chase Winovich, mitigates the damage
• Two missed Michigan field goals keep the game closer than it should be

First Look: #17 Florida

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017


Michigan kicks off its 2017 campaign in just three short days, and unlike last year when the Wolverines hosted an underwhelming Hawaii squad there is plenty of anticipation for this year’s opener. Florida enters the season ranked 17th in the AP Poll and 16th in the Coaches Poll while Michigan finds itself slightly higher at 11th and 9th, respectively.

While we haven’t had a look at either team yet this season we can take a look at how last year’s stats stack up, though it should be taken with a grain of salt since neither team is the same as the one that finished last January.

Florida 2016 team stats & Michigan comparison
Offense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank Defense Rank
23.9 107 40.3 11 PPG 16.8 6 14.1 2
1,667 2,768 Rush Yds 1,878 1,550
128.2 113 212.9 33 Rush/Gm 144.5 38 119.2 15
3.7 4.8 Rush Avg 3.8 3.2
2,805 2,756 Pass Yds 1,931 1,853
215.8 79 212.0 85 Pass/Gm 148.5 2 142.5 1
4,472 5,524 Total Off. 3,809 3,403
344.0 116 424.9 58 Total Off./Gm 293.0 5 261.8 1
22.3 39 18.7 110 KR Avg 23.6 110 22.1 91
7.6 72 14.3 8 PR Avg 9.8 96 6.5 47
31:13 38 33:03 15 Avg TOP 28:47 26:57
42% 55 43% 40 3rd Down% 35% 24 21% 1
28-221 68 22-145 40 Sacks-Yds 31-208 40 46-296 4
35 66 TDs 27 22
21-25 (84%) 19-24 (79%) FG-ATT 10-15 (67%) 10-18 (56%)
30-42 (71%) 126 62-68 (91%) 13 Red Zone 28-39 (72%) 4 20-28 (71%) 3
21-42 (50%) 44-68 (65%)  RZ TD 18-39 (46%) 14-28 (50%)
-.42 100 .81 11 OFEI/DFEI .95 6 .89 8
26.0 88 33.8 40 S&P+ 13.3 4 7.7 2

Florida went 9-4 overall last year and 6-2 in the Southeastern Conference, finishing the season on a high note with a 30-3 throttling of Iowa in the Outback Bowl. The Gators’ best win of the season was a 16-10 victory on the road over 16th-ranked LSU. But when they lost they lost bad, losing by an average of 21.8 points per game. Arkansas beat the Gators 31-10 and Florida State and Alabama beat them by a combined score of 85-29 to close the regular season.

The offense in Jim McElwain’s second season in Gainesville was among the nation’s worst, ranking 116th nationally in total offense and 107th in scoring. They topped 30 points just four times and 40 points once while being held to 16 or fewer points five times. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly describes Florida as “good against bad and bad against good” in 2016 and that seems right. That’s also good news for Michigan.

The good news for McElwain is that most of his offense returns from last season. The bad news is that leading receiver Antonio Callaway is among eight players that are suspended for the season opener. The question mark is the quarterback. Will Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire get the nod? Will McElwain go with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks? Or will he turn to veteran Luke Del Rio?

Regardless of the quarterback, the running game is where Florida will need to improve. The Gators ranked 113th nationally in rushing last season and were held below 100 yards rushing four times including an astounding zero yards against Alabama and 12 yards against Arkansas. Michigan’s rush defense ranked 15th nationally last season and although it lost a lot of starters to the NFL, it returns plenty of talent with starting experience.

Defensively, Florida was nearly on Michigan’s level last season, ranking fifth nationally in total defense and sixth in scoring. The Gators held eight of 13 opponents to 10 points or less, but there wasn’t really any middle ground. In the four losses, they allowed 38.5 points per game. That’s good news for a Michigan offense that ranked 11th nationally in scoring a year ago.

The Gators return five starters, but have to replace nearly the entire secondary, and that secondary was second only to Michigan in pass defense a year ago. With Michigan’s young receiving corps that could make for an interesting matchup of young but unproven talent on both sides of the ball.

Florida’s rush defense wasn’t quite as good in 2016, ranking 38th nationally, and the pass rush was good but not great, recording 31 sacks for a national ranking of 40th. The first string should be good, but depth issues abound, especially when the suspensions come into play.

All told, Florida is returning a solid team that certainly won’t be an easy matchup for a Michigan team that has to replace a lot of production this season. Most experts seem to be overvaluing Michigan’s losses defensively and calling for a Florida win, but only time will tell.

Michigan 41 – Florida 7: Wolverines smoke Gators for 10th win

Monday, January 4th, 2016


Michigan vs Florida(MGoBlue.com)

Prior to Friday’s Citrus Bowl, Michigan’s offense had surpassed 500 yards just once all season, in a 48-41 double-overitme win at Indiana. Prior to Friday’s Citrus Bowl, Florida’s defense, which ranked sixth nationally, allowing 295.4 yards per game, hadn’t surrendered 500 yards to anyone. On Friday, Michigan’s offense racked up 503 yards, scoring on seven of nine possessions, en route to a 41-7 blowout of the SEC East champion Gators.

UM-Florida-small-FINAL
Final Stats
Michigan Florida
Score 41 7
Record 10-3 (6-2) 10-4 (7-1)
Total Yards 503 273
Net Rushing Yards 225 118
Net Passing Yards 278 155
First Downs 28 14
Turnovers 0 2
Penalties-Yards 4-30 7-66
Punts-Yards 1-57 4-216
Time of Possession 38:38 21:22
Third Down Conversions 9-of-12 7-of-13
Fourth Down Conversions 0-of-0 0-of-2
Sacks By-Yards 2-24 0-0
Field Goals 2-for-2 0-for-0
PATs 5-for-5 1-for-1
Red Zone Scores-Chances 6-of-7 1-of-3
Red Zone Scores-TDs 4-of-7 1-of-3
Full Box Score

After a month to prepare, Michigan turned in its most complete performance of the season, thoroughly dominating Florida to achieve the 27th 10-plus win season in the program’s 136 year history.

Both teams entered the contest boasting top-10 defenses, leading most to believe the game would be a low-scoring affair. But it was Michigan’s defense that lived up to its billing, holding Florida to just 273 total yards and seven points. The Gators managed 118 rushing yards on 27 carries, and Florida quarterback Treon Harris completed just eight of 21 passes for 146 yards, no touchdowns, and an interception.

Florida opened its whole bag of tricks, trying a fake field goal, a fake punt, a flea flicker, and a play that included a direct snap to the running back, reverse to the receiver, pass to the quarterback. Only the latter produced a positive result for the Gators, resulting in their only touchdown of the game.

Michigan, meanwhile, didn’t need trick plays; simply a sound, fundamental football. Jake Rudock completed 20 of 31 pass attempts for 278 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Even with the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, Harbaugh left him in to the end, a fitting tribute to the grad-year senior who transferred from Iowa and improved his chances of being drafted this April from none to, well, a chance.

Jehu Chesson continued his rise from seldom-used contributor to star in the making. The redshirt junior caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown, torching Vernon Hargreaves, who most believe to be a first-round draft pick in a few months.

De’Veon Smith eclipsed 100 yards for the first time since a Week 4 win over BYU, rushing for 109 yards on 25 carries. Drake Johnson and Sione Houma also ran well, notching a touchdown apiece. Johnson added a receiving score as well.

It was a fitting end to Harbaugh’s first season at the helm, sending off a small but important senior group, and setting up great expectations entering the offseason, with a thorough beatdown of a good SEC team.

Michigan and Florida entered in very similar positions — better than expected seasons under first-year head coaches. But Friday’s Citrus Bowl left the two on divergent paths nine months before they step on the field again and shows which coach has his team in better position.

Michigan has some holes to fill next season — namely at quarterback, center, and linebacker — but with nearly everyone returning, and a likely Top 10 preseason ranking, expectations should be through the roof. But before we get there, we get a 41-7 win over the SEC East champion to hang our hat on all offseason.

Game Ball – Offense

Jake Rudock (20 of 31 for 278 yards, 3 TDs, 4 carries for 29 yards)
In his final game as a collegiate athlete, Jake Rudock went out the same way he did in his final game of high school: a champion in Citrus Bowl Stadium. The St. Thomas Aquinas product and Iowa transfer capped his career with a remarkable performance against the nation’s 11th-best pass defense with at least two future NFL draft picks in the secondary. He looked night and day different from the beginning of the season when many Michigan fans questioned whether or not he was the right man for the job. By the end of the game, one would be hard pressed to find a single Michigan fan who didn’t wish Rudock had one more year of eligibility. He moved into second place in school history in single season passing yards with 3,017 and became the first Michigan quarterback to pass for more than 250 yards in five consecutive games.

Previous:
Week 1 – Jake Butt (8 receptions for 93 yards and 1 TD)
Week 2 – De’Veon Smith (23 carries for 126 yards, 3 TDs)
Week 3 – Ty Isaac (8 carries for 114 yards, 1 TD)
Week 4 — De’Veon Smith (16 carries for 125 yards and 1 TD)
Week 5 — Drake Johnson (13 carries for 68 yards, 1 TD, 1 rec for 31 yards, 1 TD)
Week 6 — Mason Cole, Ben Braden, Graham Glasgow, Kyle Kalis, Erik Magnuson
Week 7 — Kenny Allen (3-for-3 field goals, 2-2 PATs)
Week 8 — Jabrill Peppers (4 carries for 16 yards, 1 TD, 1 punt return for 41 yards, 1 kick return for 43 yards)
Week 9 — Jake Rudock (18 of 25 for 337 yards, 2 TDs, 1 carry for 4 yards, 1 TD)
Week 10 — Jake Rudock (33 of 46 for 440 yards, 6 TDs, 1 INT, 7 carries for 64 yards)
Week 11 — Jake Rudock (25 of 38 for 256 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT)
Week 12 — Jehu Chesson (8 receptions for 111 yards, 1 TD)

Game Ball – Defense

Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack)
This was a tough one as the entire defense played well and essentially shut down Florida’s offense. Joe Bolden said after the game when asked if he was surprised that Florida only scored seven points, that he was surprised that the did score seven points. That’s the mentality of a great defense, and it started with the defensive front. Chris Wormley was unblockable for the Florida offensive line and recorded four tackles, two-and-a-half tackles for loss, and a sack.

Previous:
Week 1 – Chris Wormley (5 tackles, 3 TFL)
Week 2 – Chris Wormley (6 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 3 – Jourdan Lewis (3 tackles, 4 PBU)
Week 4 — Ryan Glasgow (3 tackles, 2 TFL)
Week 5 — Desmond Morgan (9 tackles, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
Week 6 — Jourdan Lewis (4 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 touchdown, 1 PBU)
Week 7 — Willie Henry (5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU)
Week 8 — James Ross (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack)
Week 9 — Chris Wormley (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 10 — Delano Hill (10 tackles, 8 solo, 1 PBU)
Week 11 — Taco Charlton (4 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)
Week 12 — Jourdan Lewis (6 tackles, 5 solo, 1 TFL, 1 sack)

Final Individual Stats
Passing Comp-Att Yds Avg. TD INT Long Sack
Jake Rudock 20-31 278 9.0 3 0 45 0
Treon Harris 8-21 146 7.0 0 1 27 2
Josh Grady 1-2 7 3.5 0 0 7 0
Antonio Callaway (WR) 1-1 2 2.0 1 0 2 0
Johnny Townsend (P) 0-1 1 0.0 0 0 1 0
Rushing Car. Yards Avg. TD Long
De’Veon Smith 25 109 4.4 0 24
Drake Johnson 6 58 9.7 1 17
Treon Harris (QB) 11 55 5.0 0 22
Kelvin Taylor 11 50 4.5 0 21
Seone Houma 9 32 3.6 1 8
Jake Rudock (QB) 4 29 7.3 0 14
Jordan Conkrite 3 17 5.7 0 8
Taven Bryan (DL) 1 -1 -1.0 0 -1
Josh Grady (QB) 1 -3 -3.0 0 -3
Receiving Rec Yds Avg. TD Long
Jehu Chesson 5 118 23.6 1 45
Antonio Callaway 5 75 26.0 0 26
Grant Perry 5 51 10.2 1 24
Jake Butt (TE) 3 34 11.3 0 12
Brandon Powell 1 26 26.0 0 26
Khalid Hill 1 24 24.0 0 24
Amara Darboh 2 24 12.0 0 17
Chris Thompson 1 20 20.0 0 20
Ian Bunting (TE) 1 17 17.0 0 17
Demarcus Robinson 1 17 17.0 0 17
Jordan Cronkrite (RB) 1 15 15.0 0 15
Drake Johnson (RB) 2 10 5.0 1 8
Treon Harris (QB) 1 2 2.0 1 2
De’Veon Smith (RB) 1 0 0.0 0 0
Kicking FG Pct Long XP Pts
Kenny Allen 2/2 100.0 25 5/5 11
Neil MacInnes 0/0 0.0 0 1/1 1
Punting No Yds Avg TB In 20 Long
Johnny Townsend 4 216 54.0 0 0 61
Kenny Allen 1 57 57.0 1 0 57
Kick Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Antonio Callaway 3 79 26.3 37 0
Vernon Hargreaves 2 38 19.0 25 0
Brandon Powell 2 36 18.0 19 0
Jehu Chesson 1 28 28.0 28 0
Punt Returns No Yds Avg Long TD
Amara Darboh 1 11 11.0 11 0

M&GB staff predictions: Florida

Friday, January 1st, 2016


StaffPicks_banner2015

Michigan looks to kick off 2016 with its 10th win of the season against Florida in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. The SEC East champions are 10-3, but coming off back to back losses. Here are our picks.

Justin
Staff Predictions
Michigan Florida
Justin 23 17
Derick 20 12
Sam 24 15
Josh 10 13
Joe 27 20
M&GB Average 21 15

A matchup of two of the top defenses in college football calls for a low scoring affair and I think that will hold true. Michigan will have trouble running the ball, which isn’t a surprise after the last few games, but will need to find success through the air against Hargreaves and Tabor. That’s not an easy task, but Michigan’s passing game grew leaps and bounds as the season went on. If Jabrill Peppers is healthy enough to play, expect him to play a similar role to what he did against Ohio State, giving the offense another dynamic playmaker.

Defensively, Michigan will need to slow down Taylor on the ground, but shouldn’t be too worried about Harris beating them through the air. Ohio State’s offense this is not. Nor is it Indiana’s, and those are really the only two offenses that gave Michigan’s defense fits this season.

Michigan has the advantage on special teams, especially if it becomes a game of field goals, so I give Michigan the slight edge to pull this one out and carry momentum into the offseason.

Michigan 23 – Florida 17

Derick

Michigan 20 – Florida 12

Sam

Michigan 24 – Florida 15

Josh

I’m traveling tomorrow and Saturday so I won’t be watching any of the games until at least Sunday…if you could refrain from any season ending emails until Sunday I’d appreciate it!

I’ll keep this short and sweet. These teams are so similar its eery. Both had elite defenses early on, then both faded at the end. Neither have much of an offense, though Michigan has the edge there. Both are under first year coaches who’ve miraculously turned losers into winners. I give Florida the edge in pure athletes on the roster but Michigan has a HUGE edge in coaching. Losing Will Grier has really hurt the Florida offense but without Jabrill Peppers on the field I see the pendulum swing back towards a slight edge when Michigan is on defense, but only a slight one.

Florida won’t score much, even if Peppers isn’t out there but what really worries me is Michigan’s offense versus that Florida defense which boasts an incredible talent in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, along with others that are just plain higher caliber athletes than Michigan has. Without any semblance of a run game Michigan is likely to air it out with Rudock. And that’s all well and good, but this is the best defense they’ll have faced all year with NFL-caliber players, color me concerned.

Neither offense will be scoring many points so for me this comes down to special teams play, with the rumors going around that Blake O’Neill might be out that takes away a huge advantage for Michigan in the field position game. I’m 50/50 on this game but after seeing Michigan only manage 13 points against OSU and with them facing a better defense in Florida, in what is essentially a home game, along with no O’Neill I have trouble picking Michigan to reach 10 wins.

It’s a close, boring and low-scoring game, but Florida edges out Michigan in the end and ruins the shot for a doubling up of last year’s win total.

Michigan 10 – Florida 13

Joe

Here we are. The final game of a very exciting first season for coach Harbaugh is upon us and should end in an entertaining battle.  I’m not sure if Peppers us playing, but I’m guessing he will be out for this one. We’d have heard otherwise by now if he was playing. I still think the D had enough to hold the Gator offense to less than 21 pts. The Rudock led Wolverines week out up some points early and let the D line go hunting. I think we end on a high note and head into the off-season with a bowl victory.

Michigan 27 – Florida 20

Citrus Bowl preview: #14 Michigan vs #19 Florida

Thursday, December 31st, 2015


Game Preview_Florida_banner

More than a month after a humbling loss to rival Ohio State, Michigan returns to the field looking to make a statement heading into a seven month football slumber. Jim Harbaugh can capture the 27th double-digit win season in program history with a victory over the Florida Gators in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl on Friday afternoon.

UM-Florida-small
Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 12p.m. EST – ABC
Ohio State Head Coach: Jim McElwain (1st season)
Coaching Record: 32-19 (10-3 at UF)
Offensive Coordinator: Doug Nussmeier (1st season)
Defensive Coordinator: Geoff Collins (1st season)
Last Season: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)
Last Meeting: UM 41 – UF 35 (2008)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 2-0
Record in Bowl Games: Michigan 2-0
Record in Citrus Bowl: Michigan 1-0
Jim Harbaugh vs Florida 1st meeting
Last Michigan win: 2008 (41-35)
Last Florida win: N/A
Current Streak: Michigan 2

Michigan and Florida have faced each other twice before, both in Florida-based bowl games. In the 2003 Outback Bowl Michigan topped Florida 38-30 to close out a 10-3 season. Five years later, Michigan topped the Tim Tebow-led Gators 41-35 in the 2008 Capital One Citrus Bowl to close out Lloyd Carr’s career with a 9-4 season. Win or lose this one, Michigan will finish with one of those two records.

Florida won the Southeastern Conference East division this season, losing only to LSU in-conference (35-28) and rival Florida State in the regular season finale (27-2). The Gators then faced Alabama in the SEC Championship game and lost 29-15, which means they ride a two game losing streak heading into this one.

Florida’s best win was a 38-10 throttling of Ole Miss on Oct. 3, but they also nearly lost to Florida Atlantic on Nov. 21, needing overtime to top the Owls, who finished the season just 3-9. Their only wins came over Charlotte, Florida International, and Old Dominion.

So which Florida team will show up in Orlando on New Year’s Day — the one that started 10-1 and was ranked as high as eighth in the College Football Playoff rankings or the one that needed overtime to beat FEI’s 99th-ranked team and scored just 17 points in its last two games? Let’s take a look at the Gators.

When Florida has the ball

Michigan fans will be familiar with offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who held the same position at Michigan last season. His offense ranks 109th nationally and 11th in the SEC in total offense (338.7 yards per game), 98th and 11th in scoring (24.5 points per game), 113th and 13th in rushing (127.6 yards per game), 76th and 6th in passing (211.1 yards per game), and 61st in passing efficiency (130.58). FEI ranks Florida’s offense 60th nationally with an opponent-adjusted offensive efficiency of -.03. By comparison, Michigan’s OFEI is .36.

Quarterback Treon Harris opened the season as the starter after starting the final six games of 2014, but lost the job to redshirt freshman Will Grier, who went 5-0 and completed 65.8 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions. But Grier was suspended for a year for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, so McElwain and Nussmeier were forced to turn back to Harris. The sophomore hasn’t performed as well as Grier, completing just 51.9 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and five picks. In fact, since taking over for Grier, Harris has completed just 49.2 percent for seven scores and five picks.

While the running game hasn’t been dynamic — better than just 14 teams nationally — it does have a decent running back in Kelvin Taylor. The junior form Belle Glades, Fla. has 248 carries for 985 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and 13 touchdowns so far this season, averaging 75.8 yards per game. By comparison, De’Veon Smith has 155 carries for 644 yards (4.2 ypc) and six scores. Harris is the team’s second leading rusher with 183 yards on 85 carries (2.2 ypc), but he has yet to find the end zone on the ground. The second leading running back, freshman Jordan Scarlett, was suspended for the Citrus Bowl for marijuana possession, which leaves Taylor and freshman Jordan Cronkite — 41 for 140 (3.4 ypc) — as the only two running backs with over 100 yards rushing on the season.

The passing game is better statistically, but Harris is not Grier in that category. Harris completed 17 of 32 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns against LSU, but managed to break 200 yards just once in his final six games, averaging just 165 yards per game during that span. Freshman Antonio Callaway is the leading receiver with 603 yards and four touchdowns on 30 receptions. Junior Demarcus Robinson leads the team with 47 receptions, but is less of a big play threat with a yards per catch nearly half of Callaway’s. Fifth-year senior tight end Jack McGee has 41 receptions for 381 yards and four touchdowns, while sophomore Brandon Powell has 28 for 364 and three scores. Sophomore tight end DeAndre Goolsby is the only other pass catcher with more than 100 yards (17 for 277 and one) but hasn’t caught more than one pass in a game since Oct. 10.

The offensive line suffered a hit last week when fifth-year senior right tackle Mason Halter was declared academically ineligible. He started all 13 games. Freshman Fred Johnson will likely fill in. The other tackle, Jordan Sharpe is one of the elder statesman along the line as just a sophomore, as freshmen Martez Ivey and Tyler Jordan will be the starting guards. Sharpe started all but the Vanderbilt game this season, while Ivey has started seven at left guard and Jordan two at right guard. Ivey was the nation’s top offensive tackle and No. 2 overall player according to 247 Sports in the 2015 recruiting class. The center is redshirt sophomore and Canton, Mich. native Cameron Dillard.

When Michigan has the ball

Defense is the reason Florida has had such a good season. The Gators rank 6th nationally in total defense (295.4 yards per game), 9th in scoring defense (16.5 points per game), 17th in rush defense (120.6 yards per game), 10th in pass defense (174.8 yards per game), 11th in pass efficiency defense (106.61).

Only one team — LSU (35) — scored more than 30 points on Florida this season, while the Gators held five opponents — Kentucky (9), Ole Miss (10), Missouri (3), Georgia (3), and Vanderbilt (7) — to 10 or fewer points. By comparison, Michigan’s defense also held five opponents to 10 or fewer points, but three of those were shutouts.

Florida’s defensive line is led by senior rush end Jonathan Bullard, whose 6.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss are both team highs. The former No. 6 overall player in the 2012 class recently said that his intention to return to Gainesville for his senior season was the best decision of his life, and now he figures to be a first or second round NFL Draft selection. He was named first team All-SEC and second team All-American. The other end is redshirt junior Bryan Cox Jr, who has 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Redshirt sophomore Caleb Brantley and junior Joey Ivie form the middle of the line. The duo has combined for 6.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. True freshman Cece Jefferson has also impressed at defensive end, recording 3.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, earning freshman All-American honors, while redshirt junior rush end Alex McCalister is tied with Bullard for the team lead with 6.5 sacks. However, McCalister was dismissed from the team two weeks ago. Still, that’s a lot of production for a defensive line unit.

Senior middle linebacker Antonio Morrison leads the team with 97 tackles and ranks second with 12 tackles for loss. Junior weak side linebacker Jarrad Davis is the second leading tackler with 94, 11 of which have gone for loss. Redshirt junior Jerami Powell is the strong side linebacker missed a few games with a torn meniscus, but and has just 12 tackles on the season. Fifth-year senior Anthony Harrell and junior Daniel McMillan also factor into the linebacker rotation with a combined 37 tackles.

The secondary is Florida’s strength with two of the best players in the nation, junior cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and sophomore cornerback Jalen Tabor. Hargreaves joined Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis as a first team All-American, becoming Florida’s first consensus All-American since Joe Haden 2009. He’s regarded as a top-10 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft after leading the team with four interceptions along with 31 tackles, four pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Tabor recorded an SEC-leading 14 pass breakups in addition to four interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns. Junior free safety Keanu Neal is the team’s third leading tackler with 85, while redshirt junior strong safety Marcus Maye is fourth with 73 and also has two interceptions. Senior nickelback Brian Poole has 36 tackles.

The other third

Redshirt junior kicker Austin Hardin has made just five of 14 field goal attempts this season with a long of 43 after making seven of 12 last season. He has missed his last five attempts. Redshirt sophomore punter Johnny Townsend leads the SEC with an average of 44.92 yards per punt. He has booted 26 of his 79 punts over 50 yards and downed 29 inside the 20.

Powell averages 21.55 yards per kick return, which ranks 13th in the SEC, while Callaway ranks third in the SEC with a 14.5-yard punt return average.

Prediction

A matchup of two of the top defenses in college football calls for a low scoring affair and I think that will hold true. Michigan will have trouble running the ball, which isn’t a surprise after the last few games, but will need to find success through the air against Hargreaves and Tabor. That’s not an easy task, but Michigan’s passing game grew leaps and bounds as the season went on. If Jabrill Peppers is healthy enough to play, expect him to play a similar role to what he did against Ohio State, giving the offense another dynamic playmaker.

Defensively, Michigan will need to slow down Taylor on the ground, but shouldn’t be too worried about Harris beating them through the air. Ohio State’s offense this is not. Nor is it Indiana’s, and those are really the only two offenses that gave Michigan’s defense fits this season.

Michigan has the advantage on special teams, especially if it becomes a game of field goals, so I give Michigan the slight edge to pull this one out and carry momentum into the offseason.

Michigan 23 – Florida 17

First Look: Florida

Monday, December 28th, 2015


Gator

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

GatorZone.com

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.