#14 Michigan v. #19 Florida
Orlando Citrus Bowl — Orlando, FL
January 1, 2016 — 1:00 pm Eastern (ABC)
Why You Should Watch
The Citrus Bowl has been played in Orlando annually since 1947, save one year in 1973 when the Citrus Bowl Stadium was undergoing expansion and the game was moved to the Swamp in Gainesville. No bowl game outside of the New Year’s Six offers a larger payday to its participants, with the first pick of non-CFP-selected Big Ten and SEC teams. It will be running opposite the Outback Bowl, which starts an hour earlier, and the Fiesta Bowl airing simultaneously on ESPN. This early part of the New Year’s schedule is going to give your remote control a workout, but it will be worth it as you get to see six top-25 teams playing simultaneously. Start your New Year’s off right with a glut of quality games.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Jim Harbaugh’s first season in Ann Arbor has to be considered a qualified success, with the Wolverines challenging for the Big Ten East and having a shot at its first 10-win season since 2011. The offense was uninspired but serviceable, with graduate transfer quarterback Jake Rudock throwing for 2700 yards but just 17 touchdowns. He had little balance from the run game, which ranked 92nd nationally. Michigan lived and died on the strength of its defense, which allowed just 17 points and 280 yards per game. The Wolverines were great at grinding out the clock, finishing the regular season 13th in time of possession per game. Michigan excelled at the return game, ranking second in the country in kickoff return average and 33rd in punt return average. Given their propensity to take penalties, the field-position battle on special teams could prove pivotal.
In Jim McElwain’s first season in Gainesville after arriving from Colorado State, the Gators survived the loss of standout quarterback Will Grier to a banned-substances suspension to win the SEC East and reach 10 wins. The offense was even less inspiring than the one Michigan fielded, as Florida scored just 24.5 points and notched less than 340 yards of total offense per game. Treon Harris, ultimately, has been a marginal replacement-value starter for McElwain. When the Gators did reach the red zone, they failed to score on nearly one-third of their opportunities. In another similarity to their bowl opponent, Florida’s offense was bailed out time and time again by a top-10 defense that allowed less than 17 points and just under 300 yards per outing. The Gators’ punt and punt-return units were phenomenal, ranking 12th in the country in punt returns and fourth in net punting.
What is Likely to Happen
Michigan brings a better offense and a better defense to Orlando for this year’s Citrus Bowl, and the Vegas line reflects this discrepancy — the line is set in favor of the Wolverines by four to 4.5 points, which seems just about right to collect a bet on UM. Jake Rudock should manage to put together a decent game, though it will be especially fun to watch Vernon Hargreaves and the Florida secondary work on Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, and the rest of the Wolverines’ receivers. His opposite number, Treon Harris, will probably find it much more difficult to generate any momentum. This year’s Citrus Bowl should be a fairly low-scoring affair after five straight years of blowouts, with the kickers getting a workout all day long as drives get bogged down. Look for Harbaugh to get the better of his fellow head coach in his first year at a new program, with the two teams feeling each other out early before the Big Ten program pulls away for its 10th win of the season.
Michigan 23, Florida 13
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