Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview

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ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gators players line up before a snap during the second half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

Florida Gators vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview

The 2017 college football season has finally arrived! College football fans all over the country rejoice has their favorite schools return to the gridiron. One of the biggest games in the first official week of college football is the 11th ranked Michigan Wolverines vs. the 17th ranked Florida Gators at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.

These two teams played against each other two years ago in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan torched Florida, but a lot has changed since. The Wolverines come into this game with a bunch of brand new faces, as they lost many of their starters from last season. The Gators come into this game with a lot of experience but missing ten players due to a suspension. The two starters that will be sidelined for the game are juniors Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett. Here is a preview of the Florida-Michigan game.

Michigan Wolverines

Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines will go up against the toughest competition in a season opener, since Harbaugh was named the head coach two years ago. In his first season, Michigan completely outplayed the Gators in the bowl as Florida got blown out 41-7. Both teams have changed a ton as Jake Butt, Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis are no longer on the team. Even with all of those losses, Michigan still has a ton of very talented players.

Rashan Gray and Michael Hurst Jr. will be the big names in Michigan’s defense. With the defense losing so much, these two will be counted on to lead the defense since they both have some experience. Devin Bush is also a pretty experienced player on the Michigan defense. Coming out of South Florida, Bush will have a lot to play for knowing he’ll be going up against players he’s known most of his life and competed against. While Michigan’s front seven seems to be solid, the secondary is the biggest question mark. The Wolverines lost a lot of talent in Peppers and Lewis. Replacing players like that is no easy task so could be something the Gators could exploit in the game.

On offense, Harbaugh has yet announced a starting quarterback but it seems that Wilton Speight will get the nod. Speight was the starter last season as he started in 11 of 12 games last season. The biggest question mark on Michigan’s offense is their offensive line. When Michigan beat the Gators two years ago, the Wolverines were too physical for them but that should change. The Wolverines only have two starters returning on their offensive line. The Florida defensive line is a very seasoned group with a ton of veterans who remember getting their tails kicked in the bowl game. If Michigan expects to win, they are going to have to win the trenches just like they did last time these two met.

Florida Gators

Jim McElwain will lead his Florida Gators into AT&T Stadium, but they will be a little shorthanded. McElwain suspended nine players indefinitely for misuse of school funds and one for a marijuana citation. The two impactful players that will be out are Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett. Both of these two are arguably Florida’s top two offensive players. While losing them isn’t ideal, Florida still has a lot depth at that position.

Outside of the suspensions, the biggest news is redshirt-freshman Feleipe Franks being named the starting quarterback. Franks beat out Notre Dame graduate transfer Malik Zaire and 2016 starter Luke Del Rio in the fall camp to be named the starter. The Florida defense lost eight starters from last season, but it’s not as bad as it seems since most of the starters were injured giving the backups valuable playing time.

The Florida Gators offense has really taken a big hit without their two stars ,but that might not be as big of a deal as some think. Sophomore running back Lamical Perine will make his first collegiate start against Michigan. The Alabama native rushed for 421 yards last season including big games against Kentucky and LSU. Perine will have Malik Davis, Mark Thompson and Adarius Lemons to back up. Sophomore Josh Hammond will get the start in place of Antonio Callaway, but the biggest name on the receiving core is Tyrie Cleveland. Florida has a lot of talent at receiver with other players like Dre Massey, Brandon Powell, Freddie Swain and Kadarius Toney. The Florida offense line is also very talented. Martez Ivey and Jawaan Taylor are two big names on the line. Feleipe Franks should have a lot of help around him to be successful.

On the other side of the ball, the Florida defense is expected to still be a top tier defense. The Florida defensive line might be the best unit on Florida’s defense. Cece Jefferson, Jabari Zuniga and Taven Bryan are the big names in the trenches. Losing Caleb Brantley won’t be easy, but Bryan has received a lot of praise this offseason. The defensive ends are Florida’s deepest position on defense. A few new names that might emerge as stars in this game are Jachai Polite and Antonneous Clayton. The linebackers are young but have a lot of experience. David Reese leads the linebacker group as had more playing time than anybody else. Reese was a former Michigan commit before flipping to Florida. Vosean Joseph and Jeremiah Moon are the other two linebackers. Duke Dawson leads Florida’s secondary with Chauncey Gardner and Nick Washington at safety.

Five players to watch: Michigan

  1. DE Rashan Gray
  2. DT Michael Hurst Jr.
  3. QB Wilton Speights
  4. LB Devin Bush
  5. WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

Five players to watch: Florida

  1. WR Tyrie Cleveland
  2. QB Feleipe Franks
  3. CB Duke Dawson
  4. LB Vosean Joseph
  5. WR Kadarius Toney

Five predictions:

  1. Feleipe Franks connects for 50+ yard touchdown pass.
  2. Devin Bush leads in tackles for Michigan.
  3. Lamical Perine rushes for over 60 yards.
  4. Whoever wins in the trenches, wins the game.
  5. Florida upsets Michigan 24-17.

Main Photo

ORLANDO, FL – JANUARY 01: Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gators players line up before a snap during the second half of the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl game at Orlando Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

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