Florida vs Michigan
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 29, 2018
Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
CHICK-FIL-A PEACH BOWL STORYLINES
ATLANTA – Seventh-ranked Michigan and No. 10 Florida are set to renew hostilities when they meet in the Peach Bowl on Dec. 29 in Atlanta. The Wolverines harbored serious College Football Playoff hopes heading into their final regular season game against sixth-ranked Ohio State, but suffered a devastating 62-39 loss to the Buckeyes to fall out of the playoff picture and aim to overcome the disappointment by achieving 11 wins in a season for just the 10th time in program history. The Dan Mullen era in Gainesville began with a bang as the Gators raced out to a 6-1 record before dropping back-to-back contests against No. 5 Georgia (36-17) and Missouri (38-17), but won three straight games to close out the regular season and hope to put an exclamation point on a promising campaign by knocking off the Wolverines for the first time in program history.
2. Michigan looks to avoid a bad case of Florida fatigue as they get set to face the Gators for the third time since 2016. The Wolverines routed Florida 41-7 in the 2016 Citrus Bowl before taking down the Gators 33-17 in the 2017 season opener in Arlington, TX to improve to 4-0 all time in the series and hope a historic defeat to their bitter rivals doesn’t carry over into the postseason, where they have dropped four of their last five bowl games, including a 26-19 setback to South Carolina in the 2018 Outback Bowl. “I really felt like the guys were crisp and sharp so that was really encouraging,” Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters. “The competition is always the best part and the objective is to win so we’re hungry for that 11th win.”
3. Mullen has restored Florida’s swagger as he orchestrated victories over No. 11 Louisiana State and 18th-ranked Mississippi State to leave him in position to win 10 games in his first season in Gainesville – a feat which eluded Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer. Mullen has resuscitated a moribund offense that was 109th in yards per game (335.9) last season as Florida has generated over 500 yards in three consecutive contests heading into the Peach Bowl and hopes to keep firing on all cylinders against Michigan, which tops the nation in total defense (262.5) . “I’m proud of our team and how they have embraced everything this year and finished strong,” Mullen told reporters. “Now they get the reward of playing in a high-profile bowl game for the opportunity to win 10 games.”
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Michigan -7.5
ABOUT MICHIGAN (10-2, 8-1 Big Ten): Linebacker Devin Bush was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year after recording a team-high 80 tackles, including 9.5 for loss and five sacks and the Florida native is likely to forego his senior season in order to turn pro. Junior defensive end Rashan Gary, who was selected to Big Ten All-Defensive First Team by the coaches despite missing three games with a shoulder injury, will sit out the Peach Bowl as the projected first-round pick prepares for the 2019 NFL Draft. Shea Patterson was a huge upgrade at the quarterback position as the Ole Miss transfer threw for 2,364 yards and 21 touchdowns this season and will announce whether he will turn pro or come back for another year following the Peach Bowl.
ABOUT FLORIDA (9-3, 5-3 SEC): Defensive end Jachai Polite was named a Second Team All-American by the Associated Press after recording 16 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and five forced fumbles in the regular season. Van Jefferson, who played with Patterson at Ole Miss before transferring to Florida, leads the Gators in receptions (31), receiving yards (439) and touchdowns (6) while Lamical Perine (750 yards, 6 TDs) and Jordan Scarlett (717 yards, 4 TDs) form an explosive one-two punch in the backfield. Feleipe Franks made big strides in his sophomore season as he threw 2,284 yards and 23 touchdowns to go along with another 276 yards and six scores on the ground.