For the third time in the last four seasons, Michigan and Florida will be matching up and this time it’ll be in the form of a New Years Six Bowl and it’ll be the game that kicks off the New Years Six Bowl slate as the teams travel to Atlanta to face off in the Peach Bowl. Most people aren’t expecting a lot of points in this game and there’s good reason for that. Both offenses have their limitations and on top of that, both teams feature some of the top defenses in college football.
Florida offense vs Michigan defense
The Michigan defense was of course one of the top units in college football this season, but they went into their rivalry game against Ohio State still with a chance to make it to the College Football Playoff and they were absolutely torched, and this’ll be their first chance to get on the field since that game. Now they won’t be at full strength as maybe their top two defensive players, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush, are going to sit out this game in preparation for the NFL Draft.
On the Florida side of things, most of it comes down to Feleipe Franks. Overall Franks hasn’t been too bad, throwing 23 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions this season, but his completion percentage is only 58.5%. When Franks is good, this offense is able to move the ball at a very high clip, but when he is bad, this offense really struggles to do much of anything.
Weapons wise, the Gators are very balanced. They have two very capable running backs in Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett, who have both ran for over 700 yards. They also have a number of different receivers that are capable of doing damage to opposing defenses, but they have no guys who have been real standouts this season.
Even though the Michigan defense has been great this season with the exception of one game, I think Florida can move the ball on them because Dan Mullen has had time to come up with a game plan, but even more importantly, because Devin Bush and Rashan Gary won’t be suiting up.
Michigan offense vs Florida defense
This is very similar to the Florida offense vs the Michigan defense in that the Florida defense is very good as is the Michigan offense, but at times the Michigan offense can struggle just like the Florida offense can. Also, just like Florida, Michigan is really dependent on how their quarterback plays. When Shea Patterson plays good, the Michigan offense is really balanced, but when he struggles, defenses can load the box and focus on stopping the run.
A big factor when these units are on the field is that Michigan running back Karan Higdon won’t be playing as he is getting ready for the NFL Draft. Higdon ran for nearly 1,200 yards this season and the area that Florida is most vulnerable on defense is in the running game, so no Higdon will make things a lot tougher.
The bulk of the workload on the ground for the Wolverines is likely going to fall on Chris Evans, which isn’t a bad thing because he did run for 5.4 yards per carry this season on over 400 yards, so he is very capable. Evans is also a capable pass catcher, so you might expect to see more of the running backs involved in the passing game for Michigan.
I’m not expecting Michigan to be able to throw for too many yards against this Florida secondary, so expect Michigan to really ride the running game and to try and use a number of different screens to try and slow down the Florida pass rush.
I’ll give a slight edge to Michigan here. Their return game is better and while both kickers are pretty good and are pretty even, Will Hart of Michigan is the better punter. Special teams could be really huge in this one because I’m not expecting a lot of points and even if there isn’t a special teams score, field position will be huge.
Michigan overall is the better team in my mind and they’ve been more consistent over the course of the season, but with Karan Higdon, Rashan Gary and Devin Bush all sitting out, I’m going to go with Florida and I think Jim Harbaugh loses another big game at Michigan.