Michigan and Florida have met in each of the last two seasons and each meeting has ended in a Wolverines drubbing of the Gators. In 2016, it was a 41-7 defeat in the Citrus Bowl. In 2017, it was a 33-17 rout to open the season. This time around, it's once again a bowl matchup as the teams meet in Atlanta for the Peach Bowl.
Spread: Michigan -6
The first season under Dan Mullen can be considered a success for the Gators as the team won nine games after capturing just four victories a season ago. The Gators did so by being in the Top 30 in the country on both offense and defense S&P+, and dominating on special teams. Mullen got the most out of quarterback Feleipe Franks as he completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns this season. Franks, combined with the running back duo of LaMichael Perine and Jordan Scarlett, powered the Gators to averaging over 30 points per game this season, finishing just outside the Top 40 in terms of finishing drives (4.90 points per scoring opportunity). On defense, the Gators were one of the best in the country at keeping teams out of the end zone on defense, holding opponents to just 3.83 points per scoring opportunity.
That defense will face a Michigan offense that struggled at times with finishing drives (4.71; 60th). The Wolverines offense was based around a punishing running game with Karan Higdon and solid quarterback play from Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson. Higdon will not be playing in the bowl game as he prepares for the NFL Draft, but Patterson will. That means the running game duties will fall to juniors Chris Evans and Tru Wilson (133 carries 758 yards 5 TDs combined). The defense will also be missing a key piece with defensive tackle Rashan Gary also deciding not to play in the bowl game in order to prepare for the draft. However, the Wolverines are deep on the defensive side of the ball, and while Gary was and is great, the defense as a whole under Don Brown was dominant. Opponents struggled all season to move the ball (32.3% success rate; 4th FBS), but, if you were able to get into scoring position, the Wolverines had a tendency to give up points (4.85 points per scoring opportunity).
Florida was better against the spread this season, going 8-4 overall and 2-1 as an underdog while the Wolverines were 6-6 overall and as a favorite this season. This game is likely to be a defensive affair, and the absence of Higdon at running back is concerning for the Wolverines. Still, they're my pick to win, though I think the Gators keep it closer than each of the last two meetings between these teams. Florida +6; Under 51.5
Local Expert Take- Jim Berry, WFOR Sports Anchor
"Dan Mullen has done a terrific job with the Gators in his first year there, really got them back on the map. The Gators this year at 9-3 taking on the 10-2 Michigan Wolverines who have had a terrific year except, they couldn't beat Ohio State and Notre Dame. That's why they are here. But, I still like the Michigan Wolverines to win this game. They have a lot of depth."
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