- In a battle between two of the nation’s best defenses, the better quarterback will decide who wins the Peach Bowl between Florida and Michigan.
Peach Bowl: Florida Gators at Michigan Wolverines (-7)
Sat., December 29, 12:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Florida-Michigan:
1. Since taking over as Michigan head coach, Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines are just 1-2 both straight up and against the spread in bowl games. It's part of an overall trend under Harbaugh where Michigan has been unable to win big games. Look no further than the Wolverines’ 62-39 loss to rival Ohio State in the final week of the regular season. But Michigan has a good chance of turning things around against Florida. Coach Dan Mullen helped Florida improve this season, but the Gators still lost to Kentucky and Missouri. Neither team is particularly special, and Florida’s biggest win of the year was a home victory over an overrated LSU team. For the most part, the Gators took care of business against teams they were supposed to beat and little else. Florida's offense is still not where it needs to be, and Michigan will make it pay.
2. Dan Mullen is one of the brightest offensive minds in football, and there’s no doubt that he’ll eventually have the Gators putting up a ton of points. But that won’t happen until he replaces sophomore quarterback Feleipe Franks. Against Kentucky, Mississippi State, LSU, Georgia and Missouri—Florida’s toughest games of the year—Franks combined to throw for only four touchdowns with four interceptions. The sophomore undeniably has a big arm, but he struggles with his accuracy and is prone to making mistakes, even in a system that is designed to make things easier for him. It’s going to be hard to trust Franks to put points on the board against a Michigan defense that allowed only 17.6 points per game, the 12th-best mark in the nation.
3. Of the two talented defenses, Florida’s is definitely the more beatable. As disappointing as the Ohio State loss was to fans in Ann Arbor, it was really Michigan's only true letdown, and it came against a future NFL quarterback in Dwayne Haskins. Michigan looked completely unprepared for that game, which won’t be the case against Florida. The Wolverines will have had too much time to let that Ohio State loss sink in, and they’ll be eager to put that performance behind them.
Florida’s 21st-ranked scoring defense is far more likely to not show up in this one. The Gators allowed 33.7 points per game in losses to Kentucky, Georgia and Missouri, and were outscored by at least 10 points in each game. Had the Gators not played cupcake games against Idaho and Florida State to end the season, it’s entirely possible that Todd Grantham’s defense would have continued to struggle. Michigan isn’t exactly great on offense, but the Wolverines have their games where they shine on that side of the ball. Even if Shea Patterson didn't live up to the hype, he is still the best quarterback that Harbaugh has had at Michigan. With Patterson and the Wolverines' run game making plays, Michigan should be able to beat Florida by more than a touchdown.
Pick: Michigan -7
Confidence level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)