Though suspensions have put a bit of a damper on the opening weekend game between Michigan and Florida, it’s still a huge game between two of the biggest and best college football programs in the nation.
Here are the four things to watch, which will decide the outcome:
1. Michigan receivers vs. Florida secondary
Michigan loses it’s top three pass catchers from last season in Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and Jake Butt. They’ll likely be replaced by a duo of true freshmen receivers that have been held in high regard in Tarik Black and Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as returning junior Grant Perry in the slot. Meanwhile, Florida’s front seven might not be a problem, but the secondary has to be a big worry for Jim McElwain and his defensive staff. With the loss of star cornerback Teez Tabor to the NFL, and the season-ending achilles injury suffered by safety Marcell Harris (last season’s leading tackler), the secondary is going to have to rely on a lot of young, inexperienced guys to get the job done. It’ll be interesting to see whether Michigan’s young, talented receivers can take advantage of Florida’s inexperience in the secondary.
2. The Trenches
Can Michigan finally assemble an offensive line that is worthy of being called a Michigan offensive line? They must replace seniors Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden, and Erik Magnuson, and must once again be without starting left tackle Grant Newsome due to a horrific knee injury he suffered last season. We’ll see how the new line looks right away, since Florida’s front seven has to be one of the best front sevens they’ll face all year. On the defensive side of the ball, can Michigan’s line live up to expectations? Florida comes into the game with a really young offensive line, and with a brand new starting quarterback, the defensive line should have no problem getting to him.
3. Impact of Florida Suspensions
While much has been made out of the 10 suspensions that Florida has for this game, it’s important to understand the context behind these suspensions. 7 of the 10 players suspended were players that were likely to not contribute at all to this game. One of the suspensions, Keivonnis Davis, made a handful of starts on Florida’s defensive line last season, but they have so much depth at that spot that it shouldn’t affect them too much. The two major suspensions are starting running back Jordan Scarlett and starting wide receiver Antonio Callaway. Those two guys are probably the two most explosive playmakers on Florida’s offense, and that’s going to make it that much harder to beat Don Brown’s blitz packages. We’ll see if Michigan’s defense can take advantage, or if new playmakers will step up to keep Florida’s offense up to speed.
4. Wilton Speight vs. Feleipe Franks
I firmly believe that Wilton Speight has won the job over John O’Korn and Brandon Peters and will be the starter for Michigan in this game. Speight brings leadership, stability, and most important of all, 13 games of starting experience to the team. While Speight struggled down the stretch last season in important games, I think that a lot of fans forget that he led this team to a 9-0 start and they were just 6 points away from being 12-0 and in the Big Ten Championship Game. Yes, Speight deserves much of the blame for the way things ended last season, but he also showed that he is a capable quarterback.
Feleipe Franks was named the Florida starting quarterback just a few days ago, and takes the reins over Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire and former starter Luke Del Rio. Zaire will also see some playing time during the game, but Franks will start. Franks is more of a pocket passer than Zaire, who can beat you with his legs. It’ll be interesting to see whether Franks has the ability to do what no Florida quarterback has been able to do in years, look competent under center.
I believe that Speight outplays Franks in this game, especially late in the game. This will be the big difference in deciding the outcome.
What are the match ups that you believe will decide the Michigan-Florida opening week game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas? Let us know in the comment section below!
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Michigan State Game Preview - Oct 5, 2017
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Cincinnati Game Preview - Sep 9, 2017
- Four Things to Watch: Michigan vs. Florida Game Preview - Sep 2, 2017