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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.