Angelique S. Chengelis of The Detroit News has five things to know about Florida, Michigan’s opponent in the Peach Bowl.
Mullen turns things around
In coach Dan Mullen’s first year with Florida, the Gators finished 9-3 and No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings and a New Year’s Six bowl berth. After back-to-back losses to Georgia and Missouri, the Gators won three straight, including a 41-14 victory at rival Florida State, to finish the regular season. Mullen, who coached nine seasons at Mississippi State, has led his teams to bowl games each year except 2009. Mullen beat Rich Rodriguez’s Michigan team in the 2011 Gator Bowl, 52-14. Mullen took over after Jim McElwain was fired after seven games in 2017. McElwain, ironically, spent this past season as Michigan’s receivers coach and is now set to become Central Michigan’s new head coach.
Gators getting offensive
In their final three-game stretch against South Carolina, Idaho and Florida State, Florida averaged 562 yards of offense and 46.3 points during the winning streak. The Gators rank 47th nationally in total offense (426.7) and 32nd in scoring, averaging 34.5 points. They will face the nation’s top-ranked defense, which yielded an average 262.5 yards, despite getting rocked in a 62-39 loss at Ohio State in the regular-season finale. In the previous 11 games, Michigan had allowed more than 21 points once all season, to Notre Dame in a 24-17 loss in the season opener.
Improved QB play
Feleipe Franks, a redshirt sophomore quarterback, has performed well in Dan Mullen’s new offensive system. Franks was 175-of-299 for 2,284 yards and had 23 touchdowns against six interceptions. He accounted for 29 touchdowns, the most since Tim Tebow had 35 for the Gators in 2009. Franks is coming off a strong second half against FSU, when he threw three touchdown passes to help Florida snap a five-game losing streak against its rival. During the back-to-back losses to Georgia and Missouri, Franks was benched because of poor performances, but after the FSU game Mullen reportedly told Franks he would not have to look over his shoulder.
Reuniting old teammates
Florida’s leading receiver Van Jefferson was a teammate of Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson when they were both at Ole Miss. While Patterson quickly earned the starting job and led the Wolverines to a 10-win season, Jefferson became the Gators’ top receiving threat. He has 439 yards on 31 receptions and has scored six touchdowns. Jefferson is joined by 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore Trevon Grimes, who transferred from Ohio State. Grimes had 366 yards on 25 catches this season, including 118 yards on five catches and one touchdown against Florida State.
Double threat in backfield
The Gators rely on a couple running backs, Jordan Scarlett and Lamical Perine to handle their rushing attack. Each back averages 5.9 yards per carry. Perine has 750 yards on 128 carries and six touchdowns, while Scarlett has 717 yards on 122 carries and he scored four touchdowns. Florida ranks 26th nationally in rushing, averaging 209.5 yards a game.