Previewing Michigan vs. Florida in the Peach Bowl: Date, Time, Spread, How to Watch

    Who: Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida (9-3) What: Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl When: 12 p.m. ET, Saturday, December 29 Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

    December 28, 2018

    Who: Michigan (10-2) vs. Florida (9-3)

    What: Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl

    When: 12 p.m. ET, Saturday, December 29

    Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia

    Spread: Michigan -6

    How to watch: ESPN

    For the third time in four seasons, Michigan and Florida will face off on a neutral field. The Wolverines dominated the Gators 41-7 in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day in 2016, then Michigan won its season opener over Florida 33-17 at AT&T Stadium in 2017.

    While Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines have had recent success against the Gators, Florida has new leadership this season under Head Coach Dan Mullen. Florida went 9-3 in the regular season in the first year of the Mullen era, and a win in the Peach Bowl would give the Gators their first 10-win season since 2015 and just their third since 2009.

    Michigan enters the bowl game as a touchdown favorite after making a run at the College Football Playoff. The Wolverines lost their season opener to Notre Dame, then won 10 straight games to climb to No. 4 in the CFP rankings before getting blown out 62-39 at Ohio State in their regular season finale.

    Now their consolation prize is a trip to Atlanta, where they’ll try to earn their first 11-win season of the Jim Harbaugh era and the program’s first since 2011. Depending on how the rest of the teams in the top 10 fare in their bowl games, Michigan could potentially make a push to finish in the top five of the final AP Top 25 poll with a win.

    A loss would mark Michigan’s third 10-3 season in Harbaugh’s four seasons in Ann Arbor and its third consecutive bowl defeat in what would be yet another season in which the Wolverines were on the doorstep of breaking through but fell short.

    Michigan will be far from full strength in the Peach Bowl as defensive lineman Rashan Gary, linebacker Devin Bush, running back Karan Higdon and offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty will miss the game for a combination of NFL draft and injury reasons.

    Bush and Gary are two stalwarts on a top-five Michigan defense. Bush is second on the team in total tackles (67) and sacks (5.0), and he’s tied for first in passes defended (five). Gary, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2016 recruiting class, had 38 tackles and 3.5 sacks this season.

    Higdon is the Wolverines’ leading rusher with 1,178 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Running backs Chris Evans (403 rushing yards, 5.4 avg., 4 TD) and Tru Wilson (355 rushing yards, 6.0 avg., 1 TD) will get more carries in Higdon’s absence. They’ll try to find running lanes against a strong Florida defense that’s headlined by Jachai Polite (43 tackles, 11 sacks, five forced fumbles), Vosean Joseph (87 tackles, four sacks) and Jabari Zuniga (42 tackles, 6.5 sacks).

    The two teams actually have somewhat similar statistical profiles. Michigan is ranked No. 5, according to Football Outsiders’ S&P+ rankings, with the No. 24 offense and No. 5 defense, while Florida is No. 14 nationally with the No. 27 offense and No. 26 defense.

    Both teams’ average points per game is in the mid-30s with a strong rushing attack and a quarterback who’s a willing runner – Michigan’s Shea Patterson and Florida’s Feleipe Franks. Each team has a top-25 scoring defense that’s great against the pass and at limiting big plays, but struggles once opponents reach the red zone.

    Michigan’s opponents score 92 percent of the time they reach the red zone. Florida’s opponents score 90 percent of the time.

     

    Here’s a look at some of the statistical strengths and players to watch for both teams.

    Michigan

    Offense

    Points per game: 36.8 (20th)

    Rushing yards per game: 214 (25th)

    Third down conversion percentage: 49.4% (7th)

    Red zone conversion percentage: 87.2% (38th)

    Average time of possession: 34:46 (4th)

    Defense

    Points allowed per game: 17.6 (12th)

    Rushing yards allowed per game: 116 (16th)

    Passing yards allowed per game: 145 (2nd)

    Turnover margin: +7 (22nd)

    Opponent third down conversion percentage: 32.0% (16th)

    Limiting opponent plays from scrimmage of at least 10 yards: 107 (1st)

    Players to watch

    QB Shea Patterson – 2,364 passing yards, 65.1%, 21 TD, 5 INT

    WR Nico Collins – 33 receptions, 552 receiving yards, 6 TD

    WR Donovan Peoples-Jones – 39 receptions, 541 receiving yards, 7 TD

    DB Tyree Kinnel – 68 total tackles

    DE Chase Winovich – 56 total tackles, 4.0 sacks

    Florida

    Offense

    Points per game: 34.5 (31st)

    Rushing yards per game: 209 (27th)

    Field goal kicking: 16-of-18 (88.9%)

    Defense

    Points allowed per game: 20.4 (21st)

    Passing yards allowed per game: 175 (9th)

    Turnover margin: +10 (10th)

    Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 42.8% (23rd)

    Limiting opponent plays from scrimmage of at least 10 yards: 136 (13th)

    Players to watch

    QB Feleipe Franks – 2,284 passing yards, 58.5%, 23 TD, 6 INT

    RB Lamical Perine – 750 rushing yards, 5.9 avg., 6 TD

    RB Jordan Scarlett – 717 rushing yards, 5.9 avg., 4 TD

    WR Van Jefferson – 31 receptions, 439 receiving yards, 6 TD

    LB Vosean Joseph – 87 total tackles, 4.0 sacks, four passes defended

    DE Jachai Polite – 43 total tackles, 11.0 sacks, four passes defended, five forced fumbles

    DL Jabari Zuniga – 42 total tackles, 6.5 sacks

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