Orange Bowl Preview: Quarterback vs. Quarterback

Orange Bowl Preview: Quarterback vs. Quarterback

December 26, 2016

Deondre Francois

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On December 30, 2016, Michigan (10-2) will be facing off against Florida State (9-3) in the Orange Bowl. Normally, I would want to pit offense vs. defense in these previews, but in order to shorten the eventual WR vs. DB posts, I’m going to take a look at each of the quarterbacks in the game.

Hit the jump for Wilton Speight vs. Deondre Francois.


Michigan’s starter is 6’6″, 243 lb. redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight. Speight started every game but one this season, a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Indiana with backup John O’Korn at the helm. That’s because Speight separated his shoulder late in the Iowa game the week previous. Throughout the rest of the year, Speight was 183/293 (62.5%) for 2,375 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. His QB rating was 145.6, which was good enough for #3 in the conference and #35 in the country. Speight and the offense struggled against good defenses this season, and he’s not in a place yet where he can put the team on his back. He did improve at throwing the ball downfield, at least until his shoulder injury hampered him against Ohio State. For the most part, though, he’s a dink-and-dunk guy who does a good job of escaping the rush and finding tight ends or fullbacks on checkdowns.

O’Korn is the more athletic one with a bigger arm and more speed, but he’s not quite as cerebral or as poised. He was 20/34 (58.8%) for 173 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions this year. He ended the year with 12 carries for 31 yards, which isn’t a bad average (2.6) for a QB. He did struggle in his only start, but it was windy and snowy. In garbage time throughout the rest of the year, he looked solid.


The Seminoles’ starter is redshirt freshman Deondre Francois, a former Michigan target from the 2015 class. At 6’2″, 205 lbs., he won the job this year over some other highly touted players. This year he has completed 226/373 passes (60.6%) for 3,128 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. His passer rating of 143.7 was #37 nationally and #7 in the ACC. His worst game was his third start of the season, a 63-20 blowout loss to Louisville. He completed 7/18 passes for 101 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. In his last outing against Florida, he had second-worst passing game with just 138 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, but he made up for it by rushing 9 times for 63 yards and 1 touchdown. However, he has had some excellent passing games this year against Ole Miss, Boston College, and Syracuse. Overall, this year he has 98 carries for 187 yards (including sacks) and 4 touchdowns, so his feet can be a weapon if necessary. Francois has thrown all 6 of his interceptions on 1st and 2nd down this year, so he has yet to throw a pick on 3rd down; in fact, he has a QB rating of 190+ on 3rd-and-10+ with 4 touchdowns.

The Seminoles backup is 6’3″, 232 lb. Sean Maguire, who started for the second half of the year in 2015. This year he’s just 7/12 for 2 TDs and 1 INT in mop-up duty. He’s much less of a threat as a runner; his career-high rushing output was 6 yards against Nevada in 2013.

Advantage: Florida State. The numbers are pretty even when it comes to passing statistics, and they’re separated by just two spots in Passer Efficiency Rating. While Speight has a higher PER and completion percentage, Francois has him beaten in touchdowns and running ability. Francois’s feet give him the edge in a vacuum, though both quarterbacks will face a ton of pressure.


  1. Comments: 32
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 26, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    Usually I agree with youThunder, but for this one I would give the slight edge to Michigan. If you look at the opponents that each team has played against, Speight has clearly played against some statistically stronger defenses while Francois has not. Florida State won’t even be the toughest defense he has faced all year. That Big Ten schedule brutal with top defenses. Speight under pressure should be an advantage over Francois under pressure as he hasn’t even played a ranked defense like Michgan.

  2. Painter Smurf
    Comments: 215
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Painter Smurf
    Dec 26, 2016 at 10:34 AM

    I think you need to account more for opposing defenses in this comparison. UM played a lot more teams with good pass-efficiency defenses than FSU did. I only watched Francois 3 or 4 times this year, but I think a healthy Speight is a better bet.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2441
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Dec 26, 2016 at 11:12 AM

      a) I’m talking about QB vs. QB here, not necessarily passing game vs. passing game. There’s a lot that goes into QB play, but OL stuff, WR stuff, etc. will be discussed later.

      b) Looking at Speight’s stats vs. good defenses does not necessarily bode well for him. While he did play MORE good defenses, that doesn’t mean he played well against them. He had 6.1 YPA against Ohio State with 2 TDs and 2 INTs, one of which was a pick-six. He was 11/26 against Iowa for barely 100 yards, 0 TDs, and 1 INT. Francois also struggled against the good defenses he played, but again, his feet make a difference. He averaged 7.0 YPC against Florida, 6.6 against Ole Miss, and 7.5 against USF. He didn’t tear it up on the ground in every game, but again, I’m looking at the QBs themselves, not Francois vs. Michigan’s DL, Speight vs. FSU’s DL, etc.

      c) I see what you’re saying, and I’ll admit you might be right. Like I said, it’s close, largely because of Harbaugh’s tutelage. But you can also go back to high school and see that Francois was the #64 player overall in his class, while Speight was in the mid-400s.

      • Comments: 797
        Joined: 1/19/2016
        Dec 26, 2016 at 11:35 AM

        After my first read, I disagreed because I pictured Francois behind his OL, facing our pass rush and coverage… but, as stated, this is strictly QB v QB… tough to argue
        I still think we’ll win a tough one!

  3. Lanknows
    Comments: 3686
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Dec 26, 2016 at 12:25 PM

    Is it fair to say both QBs have struggled to pass against strong defenses?

    Francois’ running ability is what concerns me and what I think gives him an edge over Speight.

    And we can compare stats all day but Speight padded his against some very bad teams and didn’t have the major OL issues that Francois had to deal with.

    • Painter Smurf
      Comments: 215
      Joined: 8/12/2015
      Painter Smurf
      Dec 26, 2016 at 2:17 PM

      Francois played against a much more pad-able schedule than Speight. You have to consider this when one QB faces 3X as many quality pass defenses. And he also plays in an offense and conference that are much more conducive to stat padding. FSU’s line is bad, but Francois is handing off to an All American level RB and Jinbo always puts up numbers. Bottom line, Francois would not have fared much more poorly against UMs opposing defenses than.

      • Painter Smurf
        Comments: 215
        Joined: 8/12/2015
        Painter Smurf
        Dec 26, 2016 at 2:46 PM

        … Francois would have fared much more poorly statistically against UM’s schedule.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3686
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Dec 26, 2016 at 11:54 PM

        Against #8 D (Florida) Francois had 200 yards, 2TD, 1 INT and adj QBR of 77

        Against #6 D (Wisc) Speight had 219 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and adj QBR of 49

        Compare Clemson and Colorado games and Froncois comes out ahead in QBR too.

        Compare their worst games (Iowa and Louisville) and Francois comes out ahead.

        The evidence isn’t there to support your argument.

  4. Comments: 1100
    Joined: 8/13/2015
    Dec 26, 2016 at 8:34 PM

    I don’t think it’s that Speight can’t run, he just doesn’t much. And on those occasions when he does run, he doesn’t take off downfield so much as run to a clean spot to throw it from.

    I’m also not entirely certain that he has permission to run. I keep hearing, without much in the way of corroboration by the way, that this shoulder thing is an old wound that never gets 100% right.

    So, having said all that, I like a QB that can run ….. until somebody hits him. Then, not so much. We’ve done a nice job hitting their QB this season. Even Barrett went home sore, although sadly, not broken. I don’t want to see anybody get broken forever understand, just maybe until Sunday afternoon. If they can’t finish the game but can get to class ….. I’m good with that. You know, to the extent that the Buckeyes go to class anyway.

    I think we’re gonna hit Francois, which is not an experience that he’s overly familiar with. I think we can make him lower his eyes and look for lanes to run through, rather than guys to throw it at. If we hold containment I think we can rock his world.

    Anyway, i’m taking our guy in this conversation, mostly because ….. he’s our guy. I don’t think it’s much of a secret around here that I like Speight a lot as a QB. As an aside, I told a guy at a party last week that I don’t think Speight is gonna make it as a three year starter here and that guy got all cranky and accused me of being a sufferer of back-up QB syndrome. Then I told him that Matthew Stafford was an elite plus QB, that I’d take him over any QB in the NFL with the exception of Tom Brady, and maybe even Brady were it not for the fact that I’m not rational about Tom Brady, and that the only reason Stafford doesn’t have multiple rings at age 28 is that he has had the terrible misfortune of having to play for the single worst program in the history of professional athletics and possibly all of business in general. He looked at me with great ….. something somewhere between pity and contempt. Alas, you just can’t please em all.

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