Match-up: Michigan (Big Ten) vs. Florida (SEC)
Spread: Mich (-4)
When: Friday, January 1st, 1:00 PM
Location: Orlando, FL
Where to Watch: ABC
The Wolverines had an outstanding season under Jim Harbaugh in his first year in Ann Arbor, reaching 9 wins and finishing in the AP Top 15 in just Harbaugh’s first year. Expectations were not too high this year, as they were a young football team that needed to find an identity, but it didn’t take Harbaugh to find that identity. The definition of this Michigan team is toughness. Run the football, be physical at the line of scrimmage, and play great defense. That’s what Michigan did all season long. The future is extremely bright in Ann Arbor.
Players to Watch:
De’Veon Smith (RB): Smith was the catalyst for the Michigan offense this year on the ground, rushing for a team high 644 yards and 6 touchdowns. Not earth-shattering numbers, but Smith is a physical back that really helped move the chains in big games for this offense. It will be a tough task going against a stingy Florida defense, but Smith will be up for the challenge.
Jabrill Peppers (CB): Peppers is the best athlete by far on this Michigan football team. This guy can play corner, safety, wide receiver, and running back. It’s unbelievable how unique this guy is, as Jim Harbaugh was quoted earlier this year saying Peppers “Is the Willie Mays of college football.” In terms of his versatility in the sport, that’s not a bad assumption. Peppers will be all over the field on both sides of the ball in this game, and has to be the main guy Florida tries to eliminate. Good luck.
How Michigan Can Win
Defense. Defense. Defense. This Florida offense has been terrible down the stretch, scoring just 9 points against Vanderbilt, 2 points against Florida State, and 17 points (in mop-up time vs Alabama). Since Will Grier’s suspension, Treon Harris could not pick up the slack and hasn’t been comfortable. If Michigan’s front seven takes away the Florida running game, Michigan will win this game.
Another guy that deserved to be coach of the year, Jim McElwain took over for Will Muschamp with a limited roster offensively. Defensively, he certainly had talent to work with, but McElwain resurrected a Florida offense that was solid for much of the year until Grier’s suspension. With a year to recruit the players he wants on offense, this Gators program will be moving the right direction. Reaching the SEC Championship Game in his first stint will certainly help bring talent to Gainesville.
Players to Watch
Kelvin Taylor (RB): The ground game is the entire Florida offense, and Taylor is the main cog in the backfield. He is a tough guy to bring down and can run away from you in the open field. The Gators will feed Taylor as much as they possibly can in this game.
Vernon Hargreaves (CB): The All-American defensive back is the best pure cover corner in the country, and has been for quite some time. With his length to deflect any ball that comes his way and his ability to tackle one-on-one in the open field, Hargreaves will want to make a name for himself in his final game in a Gators uniform before he departs for the NFL.
How Florida Can Win
They must be able to put points on the board on offense. Their defense is one of the best in the nation and will definitely keep them in the game, but ultimately it’s going to come down to Treon Harris making plays through the air. Can he do it? That’s debatable, but he’s going to have to if the Gators want to win this game.
Final Score Prediction- Michigan wins 17-14.
Photo Credits: http://nflrt.com/2016-nfl-mock-draft/