Jim Harbaugh has taken the business trip approach to this Orange Bowl, and his players seem to be on board. The last time Harbaugh faced a Florida team in a bowl game, it ended up being a laugher. FSU is a little more talented than last year’s UF team but this game could be similar in the way Michigan prepares.
Rushing Offense against Florida State
The usual suspects will line up in the backfield for the Wolverines but this game has a different meaning for one Michigan running back. This marks De’Veon Smith’s 41st and final game as a Wolverine and will be very important for his future moving forward.
Like most other college athletes, Smith has dreams of moving on and playing on Sundays. This is a great place to showcase his talent and he will be given every opportunity to do so on a national stage against one of the countries elite programs. Scouts will have their eye on this game while gearing up for the draft.
FSU ranks 29th in total defense and has a top notch athletes at all positions. Miami native, Matthew Thomas, and fellow junior, Ro’Derrick Hoskins, will be responsible for manning the linebacker position for FSU. Both players rank in the top five in tackles on the team.
The offensive line is going to have to get some serious push when facing this Seminole defensive line. Not only do they rush the passer, they make life hard for running backs. Defensive end, DeMarcus Walker is a consensus All-American and has a team high 64 tackles. Nose tackle Derrick Nnadi doesn’t get enough credit, finishing the regular season with 9.5 tackles for loss.
- Advantage: Michigan
FSU only allows 131 yards per game but they are facing a team in Michigan that has had a month to prepare. When Harbaugh is given that much time look out. Last year in the Citrus Bowl, the Wolverines ran for 225 yards against a big time SEC team in Florida.
Passing Offense against Florida State
Florida State is struggling to keep players healthy in their defensive backfield. Earlier in the season, you may have called this FSU’s strongest position group. With injuries to safeties Nate Andrews and Derwin James, this group has been somewhat of a disappointment to Seminole standards (allowing 17 td passes).
The difference in this one will rely on the offensive on defensive lines. If Michigan can’t control the pass rush upfront, FSU will definitely make plays and create turnovers. You have to believe Harbaugh will go after the inexperienced secondary of the Seminoles, especially the safeties. Cornerback Tavarus McFadden does lead the country with eight interceptions
Wilton Speight should bounce back after that up and down Ohio State game. 15 more practices to get on the same page with his wide outs does a quarterback good. Expect Speight to be prepared but don’t be surprised if he turns it over once or twice.
- Advantage: Michigan
Michigan brings an experienced group of pass catchers to face this speedy FSU team. I’ll take experience and game planning over speed in this matchup.
Rushing Defense against Florida State
Here is where things get interesting for the Michigan defense.
A man named Dalvin Cook will be a problem if not handled properly. Lining up at running back, he is everything to this FSU football team. He’s big, talented and fast. With a better offensive line, this guy could have run for several hundred more yards than he did… and he ran for almost 1700 yards. If the Wolverines don’t wrap him up, it will be a very long night.
Florida State has struggled along the offensive line most of the season. They do not look impressive at all. Chris Wormley and friends should have no problem penetrating and creating havoc in the backfield. It will be on the backs of the linebackers to come up and make plays to prevent Florida State from scoring.
Speed could be an issue for the UM linebackers as Michigan tries to track down Cook. McCray and Gedeon are solid but do expect Peppers to shadow Cook more often than not.
- Advantage: Michigan
Michigan will use a similar game plan to the one they used to bottle up Ohio State’s Curtis Samuel. If Cook gets loose, they know they are in for a long night. Michigan wants this win too bad
Passing Defense against Florida State
Quarterback Deondre Francois became the fourth freshman in school history to start the season at the position. Named ACC rookie of the year, Francois has seen his confidence rise throughout the season. Finishing with 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions, he will also be looking to make his name known against the nations 2nd ranked defense.
Francois’s favorite target will have a decision to make after the bowl game. Junior Travis Rudolph led Florida State with 53 catches for 807 yards and seven touchdowns with a struggling freshman quarterback the first few games. Cook is also a threat out of the backfield, on screens and swing passes.
Jourdan Lewis and Channing Stribling have made a living off of locking down opposing wide receivers. Don’t expect this matchup to be much different. Although this FSU team does possess a little more speed than what Michigan is used to seeing, they should have no problem being in the back pocket of Seminole receivers.
This is a big night for all the starters in the Michigan backfield. There last game in Maize & Blue, with NFL scouts watching, they’ll want to show out and put on their best performance. At this point, it’s safe to say that Lewis is the only sure thing to be drafted in the first few rounds. The others could get a huge boost with a standout performance.
- Advantage: Michigan
Freshmen quarterback against a senior laden Michigan football team? I just don’t see that working out to well. The Wolverines will dominate and make this a one dimensional football game.
Prediction: Michigan 34 – Florida State 20
Harbaugh is going to create another enemy in Jimbo Fischer after this backyard butt whipping. I think the score is closer than the game indicates but I truly believe Michigan dominates every facet of this game.
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Graduated intramural sports king at Eastern Michigan University. Content contributor at MGoFish.com
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