Miami will be alive with enthusiasm as Michigan and Florida State battle in the Orange Bowl. Michigan is a month removed from losing a heart-breaker to Ohio State that eliminated them from the Playoff. Florida State battled through a tough schedule where they fell on their face at Louisville and lost a winnable game at home to Clemson to finish 9-3. Both teams will have something to prove. Let’s take a closer look at the match-up with my keys to the game.
1. FSU’s Pass Protection. The Seminoles’ offensive line have had their issues protecting their quarterback Deondre Francois. They allowed 34 sacks this season. In addition, Francois has been hit constantly in the pocket (look at the Ole Miss tape). This Michigan defense is second in the nation in sacks with 44. If FSU wants to have offensive success, their offensive line must keep Taco Charlton and company off Francois. We will see if the extra time off helped the line gain confidence in each other to do their job.
2. Wilton Speight and Michigan’s passing game. Speight did what Jim Harbaugh wanted him to do for the most part, don’t turn the ball over and manage the game. The problem for me is when he was asked to do more, he struggled. In the Ohio State game, Speight threw a really bad interception for a pick-six and his second interception was also inside their own territory. The receivers do not really scare me either. Michigan might find it hard to run the ball because Florida State only allows 3.7 yards per rush, so Speight will have to make some throws to generate offense.
3. Special Teams. Both teams have explosive returners and good kickers and punters. This is key for me because I am anticipating a low scoring game and field position could loom large. I don’t know if I see either offense putting together long drives to score so hidden yardage through the return game will be crucial. Jabril Peppers has a punt return for a touchdown this season.
Florida State- Defensive line. Michigan’s defensive line causes havoc, and so does FSU’s. DeMarcus Walker has 15 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss this season, he is a “beast”. Brian Burns and Josh Sweat combined for 15 sacks this season as well. Their defensive front is really talented, a real challenge for Michigan’s offense to contain.
Michigan- Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh. These two wide receivers must make plays. If they don’t Michigan is “toast” in the passing game. They can not beat Florida State if they expect to just run the ball right at the Seminoles. The Wolverines must show the ability to move the ball via the passing game.
Prediction: Two solid defenses equals a low-scoring game in my opinion. I see both defenses setting up their offenses by creating turnovers. The team who makes the most of those opportunities will win. Just have a feeling Michigan can match Florida State’s athleticism and find a way to win. Michigan 16-13