No.14 Michigan and No.19 Florida won’t be a part of the 2015-2016 New Year’s Six, but the two teams will compete in one of college football’s most highly anticipated bowl games on Jan. 1. The Wolverines face the Gators in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl as both teams try to end the season on a high note.
Michigan is looking to get the bad taste out of their mouth from getting blown out by rival Ohio State 42-13 in their last game. Florida was ranked eighth overall just a few weeks before the end of the regular season, but they lost by 39 combined points to Florida State and Alabama in their last two games.
Even though the contest will be played in Orlando, Florida, Michigan is favored. The Wolverines are giving the Gators four points, according to vegasinsider.com.
No matter what happens in Friday’s game, both teams will have had successful 2015 campaigns. In their first year under new head coaches, both Michigan and Florida are ahead of schedule in their quest to once again compete for a national championship.
Under Jim Harbaugh, Michigan might have had the most impressive turnaround in college football. After going 5-7 in 2014 with just two votes in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, the Wolverines are well on their way to becoming a national power. Michigan was a blocked punt away from having a chance to reach the College Football Playoff in the final week of the regular season.
After going 7-5 last year, Florida ranked behind 35 teams in the preseason AP rankings. First-year coach Jim McElwain helped the Gators reach the SEC Championship Game, and they could’ve had a chance to reach the CFP had it not been for the suspension of quarterback Will Grier.
Because of the two defenses going head-to-head, the Citrus Bowl is unlike any other bowl game on the schedule. With an over/under of 39, points will be at a premium in Friday’s contest.
Michigan’s defense looked like it might be the best in the country in mid-October. The Wolverines posted three consecutive shutouts, including two against ranked teams. Overall, Michigan ranks 11th in points allowed per game (17.2), and fourth in total yards allowed. The Wolverines have been especially good against the pass, allowing the lowest opposing quarterback rating in the country. Even in a loss to Michigan State, the Wolverines limited Connor Cook to one of his worst performances this season.
Florida has surrendered even fewer points than Michigan, ranking eighth in scoring defense. The Gators have held eight opponents to 14 points or fewer, including a 38-10 win over Ole Miss, who ranks 12th in scoring and had been averaging nearly 55 points per game up to that point. However, Florida ended the season allowing 28 points per game to two top-10 opponents.
Florida Struggling to Score
It’s incredible that the Gators have been able to win 10 games with such an abysmal offense. Having one of the nation’s top defenses helped Florida win the SEC East, but that might not be enough to give them a chance against Michigan.
Florida was 6-0, averaging 33.8 points per game until Grier got suspended. Since then, the team has gone 4-3, averaging just 17.9 points per contest. The Gators have scored 17 total points in two consecutive losses, and they haven’t reached the 28-point mark once after doing so in five of their first seven games. Florida ranks 97th overall in points per game and 99th in total offense.
Michigan hasn’t been perfect this season, surrendering 42 points in their last game as Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett combined to rush for 353 yards and five scores on 49 carries. But there’s little evidence that Treon Harris can put up big numbers against the Wolverines. The quarterback has thrown for 165 yards or fewer in five of seven starts, and he hasn’t rushed for more than 40 yards all season long. Leading rusher Kelvin Taylor is averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
Florida will be lucky to score in double-digits on New Year’s Day. Between their inability to score and Michigan’s defense, the Wolverines could win this one easily.
Michigan over Florida, 23-9