After months of anticipation, Florida and Michigan will finally suit up and kick off the 2017 season. Here are five things to know heading into Arlington, Texas.
At A Glance
AT&T Stadium – Arlington, TX
3:30 pm EST – ABC
Florida +5.5 (courtesy of MyBookie)
This matchup has definitely gotten the most attention heading into today. Both coaches are playing things close to the chest heading into this week. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh waited until this week to release his full roster. Consequently, Florida coach Jim McElwain waited until this week to announce his starting quarterback. He has left Harbaugh wondering if he will use backups Malik Zaire or Luke Del Rio as well.
The last time these two teams played was in the 2015 Citrus Bowl. Both coaches were in their first year at their new home. The game went a little bit better for the Wolverines. Michigan smacked Florida 41-7 and you can bet that Jim McElwain hasn’t forgot about that game.
These coaches are in similar positions. Both entering their third years at their new schools, both of their teams have over performed in their first two years, and both are looking to make the jump to the College Football Playoff this year.
So to this point, we know about the ten suspensions for Florida. They will be missing wide receiver Antonio Callaway and running back Jordan Scarlett among others. The big question now is who will step up on offense for the Gators.
It is impossible to replace what Callaway can bring to the table on offense and on special teams. The receiving corps will be called upon to help fill Callaway’s shoes. Senior Brandon Powell and sophomore Tyrie Cleveland will be asked to make big plays on the outside. The X-factor in the passing game could be senior tight end DeAndre Goolsby. Goolsby had 38 receptions for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns last season.
Look for sophomore Lamical Perine to get a lot of Scarlett’s carries today. Perine went for over 100 yards twice last season against Kentucky and Missouri. Hopefully he can recreate those performances against a superior Michigan defense. Senior Mark Thompson will also be taking on a larger role in the Gators backfield.
The biggest question here will be how quickly did Jim Harbaugh reload his defense that lost ten starters. The only returning starter on defense will be senior linebacker Mike McCray. No one questions Harbaugh’s ability to recruit top talent, but will the younger players be ready to step right in and produce.
The other question is whether Michigan will be able to get to the quarterback and disrupt Florida freshman quarterback Feleipe Franks. Michigan has a ton of talent on the defensive line despite graduating all four starters at that position. Look for senior Maurice Hurst to make a big impact on this game.
Florida Quarterback Questions
Jim McElwain announced that Feleipe Franks will be the starter today, but he also said that he has a plan at quarterback. That plan is still largely unknown. He has three quarterbacks capable of playing, but will he use all three? Will he rotate guys in and out? Will this be Franks game from start to finish? If Franks struggles, will he get a quick hook?
Despite all of these options for McElwain, look for Franks to get the majority of snaps at quarterback. He will probably have some packages to utilize Malik Zaire’s mobility and to keep Michigan’s defense guessing. Don’t expect Luke Del Rio to see any of the field unless there are injuries to Franks or Zaire.
Where We Go From Here?
Both of these teams are coming into the season with expectations. Expectations to take things to the next level. This game will tell the country a lot about these teams and their chances at contending for the College Football Playoff. That being said, both teams have strong enough schedules to recover from a loss and make a strong case down the stretch.
Additionally, both coaches are officially out of the honeymoon phase with their teams. Florida and Michigan’s fan bases are not known for their patience. Today’s game will be sure to cause heartbreak for one of those fan bases.
Prediction: Florida 23 – Michigan 17