No. 7 Michigan meets No. 10 Florida in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl on Dec. 29 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the teams’ third matchup in four years.
Michigan (10-2) won the two previous matchups against the Gators under fourth-year coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines are looking to win their first New Year’s Day Six bowl under Harbaugh and, at the same time, erase the sting of a 62-39 loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale. Star defensive end Rashan Gary will not play in the bowl game.
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Florida (9-3) is looking to hit double-digit wins in Dan Mullen’s first season, which would be a capper to one of the best turnarounds in the SEC this season. The Gators finished the year on a three-game win streak.
The quarterback matchup between Feleipe Franks (2,284 yards, 23 touchdowns, six interceptions) and Shea Patterson (2,364 yards, 21 touchdowns, five interceptions) should be fun. This should be a hard-fought Big Ten vs. SEC matchup.
With that in mind, here’s a look at how those teams stack up:
How to watch Michigan-Florida
The Peach Bowl can be seen on ESPN at noon ET on Dec. 29. The game will be televised nationally and can streamed on WatchESPN.com.
Michigan-Florida betting trends
— Michigan opened as a six-point favorite, but the line has jumped to 7.5 in favor of the Wolverines, who are 4-0 all time against the Gators. That includes three bowl victories.
— Michigan was favored in every game this season and finished 6-6 against the spread. The Wolverines were 1-2 against the spread when favored by fewer than 10 points.
— Florida finished 8-4 against the spread this season. The Gators 2-1 against the spread and 2-2 straight up as the underdog in 2018.
Three keys for Michigan-Florida
— Pass defense. Michigan (145.9 yards per game) and Florida (173.1) both have top-10 pass defenses, but both units give up more than 11 yards per completion. That suggests that while Franks and Patterson might struggle a bit with their percentage, both quarterbacks will hit a few big plays in the passing game that can turn the momentum if it’s tight. Look for the Gators to use crossing routes early, which were the Wolverines’ undoing against Ohio State. Michigan will test the back end with a few deep shots to Nico Collins and Donovan Peoples-Jones.
— Running game. Florida will hammer away with the running back tag-team of Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett. Both running backs average 5.9 yards per carry, and will attack a defense led by All-American linebacker Devin Bush, a Florida native. Michigan allowed just 3.4 yards per rush attempt this season.
— Second-half scoring. In the last two meetings, Michigan has outscored Florida 44-0 in the second half. That led to a 33-17 win in the season opener in 2017 and a 44-7 victory in the 2016 Citrus Bowl. Mullen, however, was not the coach in those games. He led Mississippi State to a 52-14 victory against Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl.
Michigan-Florida stat that matters
It’s a big game, so watch how Michigan runs the football. The Wolverines are 13-0 when Karan Higdon rushes for 100 yards or more the last three seasons. The Wolverines have lost 13 games under Harbaugh, and in 12 of those games they averaged fewer than 3.0 yards per carry.
There is some fatigue on both sides about the matchup, but that will go out the door when the game starts. It will be a fast track, and Florida will attack in the passing game early knowing Mullen is a disciple of Urban Meyer. Look for Michigan to open the offense up early and take a few deep shots. The Wolverines are the better team, but Harbaugh must match Mullen’s aggressiveness in the offensive game plan. This will be tight.
Michigan-Florida final score
Michigan 27, Florida 21