Preview: Michigan vs. Florida

Preview: Michigan vs. Florida

September 1, 2017

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Michigan finished #33 overall with 213 rushing yards/game in 2016, but leading rusher De’Veon Smith graduated. The depth chart is probably a little thinner this season, with Chris Evans, Karan Higdon, and Ty Isaac likely to share crunch-time carries. They all put up excellent yards per carry last season, with Evans leading the way. Michigan’s offensive line was #64 in Adjusted Line Yards, and they’ll be starting four guys at positions they weren’t starting at last season. Ben Bredeson returns at left guard, Mason Cole moves from center to left tackle, and there are brand new starters at center, right guard, and right tackle. It’s a concerning unit. Florida was #37 in rushing defense, giving up a little over 144 yards/game, and that’s consistent with their #36 Adjusted Line Yards ranking. Florida’s top tackler, safety Marcell Harris, is out due to injury, and the #2 guy (Jarrad Davis) was a 1st round draft pick. The top available, returning tackler is sophomore middle linebacker David Reese II (49 tackles), a one-time Michigan commit. The Gators have some talent on the starting defensive line in tackle Taven Bryan and end CeCe Jefferson, but the #2 guys at both DT spots are freshmen, and the #2 DE is suspended.
Advantage: Michigan

Hit the jump for the rest of the preview.


Michigan was #85 with 212 yards/game through the air in 2016, but #41 in passer efficiency rating. Redshirt junior Wilton Speight will be the starting quarterback, and he threw 18 touchdowns and 7 picks on 61.6% completions. He lost all of his receivers, though, so Michigan is breaking in new players at tight end and both outside receiver spots. The new starters are expected to be sophomore Kekoa Crawford and freshman Tarik Black at receiver, and redshirt junior Ian Bunting at tight end. The Wolverines tied for #39 with 22 sacks allowed, and pass protection might be an issue for such a young and inexperienced offensive line. Florida was #28 in Adjusted Sack Rate, and their top two sack guys return in Jabari Zuniga (5.0) and Jordan Sherit (3.5). Florida was tied for #14 in interceptions last season, and cornerback Chauncey Gardner had 3 picks last season, including 1 he returned for a TD. He’s their top guy in the defensive backfield. Otherwise, the Gators have lost Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Harris, and Marcus Maye, so they’re breaking in a bunch of new players, too. They’re thin at safety, but their cornerbacks are experienced and talented. Michigan’s best bet is probably to try to take advantage of Florida’s inexperienced safeties, but the offensive line needs to protect long enough up front for their tight ends and slot receivers to break open.
Advantage: Florida


Michigan was #15 in rushing defense last season (119 yards/game), #7 in yards allowed per rush (3.22), and tied for #6 in rushing touchdowns allowed (9). The defensive line was #3 in Adjusted Line Yards, but the starting four defensive linemen are gone. Michigan does return its #2 tackler in weakside linebacker Mike McCray, but the next guy was #9 in backup defensive end Chase Winovich, who is now a starter. Defensive coordinator Don Brown will blitz and stunt to shoot guys into the backfield, so I don’t expect a huge dropoff with the guys Michigan has available, but we don’t know exactly how the front seven will operate. Florida was #99 in Adjusted Line Yards, and they’re breaking in some new starters. Left tackle Martez Ivey is the best of the bunch, but the rest of the guys are less talented and somewhat inexperienced. Backup left tackle Kadeem Telfort is suspended. Speaking of being suspended, so is starting running back Jordan Scarlett. The Gators were #113 in rushing yards and #106 in average yards per carry. The top two guys are expected to be Lamical Perine (4.6 YPC, 1 TD) and Mark Thompson (4.4 YPC, 2 TDs). Starting quarterback Feleipe Franks is a dropback guy and not a big threat to run.
Avantage: Michigan


Michigan was #2 in passer efficiency rating defense last season, but that can be thrown out the window a little bit since they lost basically their entire defense. The defensive line should still be able to get after the quarterback, so that helps, but the secondary is totally unproven. The cornerbacks came in for some criticism from assistant coach Mike Zordich in the last week, and Michigan has moved two receivers to corner during the off-season to shore up depth. The only current Michigan player who made an interception last year is Mike McCray, who returned it for a touchdown against Florida State. Sophomore Lavert Hill is the only defensive back who made even one pass breakup last year, and he made . . . one. Michigan was #5 in sacks, and their #2, #4, and #6 sack guys return in Chase Winovich, Maurice Hurst, Jr., and McCray. Florida QB Feleipe Franks redshirted in 2016, so it’s tough to say how he’ll perform, but he beat out Notre Dame transfer Malik Zaire and incumbent part-time starter Luke Del Rio. Florida was #79 in passer rating last season, even though they were #34 in Adjusted Sack Rate. Starting receiver and potential big-play guy Antonio Callaway is also suspended, and Florida’s other receivers don’t appear to be too awfully dangerous, except for sophomore Tyrie Cleveland. Cleveland averaged over 21 yards/catch last season with 2 touchdowns. He has decent size at 6’2″, 196 lbs. and should be a good test for Michigan’s cornerbacks. Tight end DeAndre Goolsby made 38 catches for 342 yards and 3 touchdowns, so he’s a consistent target but not an elite playmaker.
Advantage: Michigan


  • Florida players recruited by Michigan include: DE Zach Carter, DE Antonneus Clayton, OT Jean Delance, WR Daquon Green, WR Josh Hammond, CB C.J. Henderson, LB James Houston IV, RB Adarius Lemons, OT Andrew Mike, LB David Reese, WR James Robinson, CB Brad Stewart, WR Freddie Swain, CB Marco Wilson
  • Florida players suspended for this game: WR Antonio Callaway, DE Keivonnis Davis, LB James Houston IV, LB Ventrell Miller, WR James Robinson, RB Jordan Scarlett, DT Jordan Smith, OT Kadeem Telfort, WR Rick Wells
  • Florida players from the state of Michigan include: LB David Reese, a former Michigan commit


  • On January 2, 2016, Michigan beat Florida in the Citrus Bowl by a score of 41-7
  • Jake Rudock went 20/31 for 278 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions
  • Michigan harassed Treon Harris into 8/21 passing for 146 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception
  • Jehu Chesson caught 5 passes for 118 yards and 1 touchdown


  • Feleipe Franks hits two deep balls against Michigan’s secondary
  • Michigan’s offensive line and Wilton Speight look shaky
  • Khaleke Hudson forces a fumble
  • Michigan 24, Florida 10


  1. Comments: 209
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    Sep 01, 2017 at 11:20 AM

    You’re trolling me, right?

    After Franks gets knockt out of the game mid 2nd quarter; Zaire will spend the rest of the game rolling/running left, rolling/running right, trying to scramble up the middle………

  2. Comments: 809
    Joined: 1/19/2016
    Sep 01, 2017 at 11:51 AM

    I’m surprised you have our run game favored over their D

    I’ll take a W, anyway it comes

  3. Comments: 209
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    Sep 01, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    Frankly, I’ll give McElwein all the coaching kudos in the world if he can field a team that is even remotely competitive in this game.
    Most of Florida’s players of significance on their roster have spent the last coupleish weex experiencing UCFPolice interviews & interrogations. 18, 19 20 & 21 year olds who are not only thinking about the status of their scholarships and or place with the team & University but perhaps a criminal indictment as well.

    Michigan will take the field with a completely well coached & focused ‘business trip’ like professional football focus. Florida? anything but……..
    As I see it……..INTJohn

    • Comments: 33
      Joined: 1/10/2017
      Sep 01, 2017 at 1:06 PM

      Most players of significance? How ’bout a few (Florida players that have been distracted)? I’d even give you “several.” Most implies that maybe 2/3 of the two-deep have been involved. Maybe so, but that seems like a reach at the moment …

      • Comments: 209
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        Sep 01, 2017 at 1:54 PM

        I’m not saying most have been Involved but you can believe, in order for the police to undersdtand the depth, breadth & scope; EVERYONE assigned/used one of those cards has been interviewed by the police………

        Take that to the bank………..INTJohn

      • Comments: 209
        Joined: 12/24/2016
        Sep 01, 2017 at 2:11 PM

        ……….and not only those on the Gator team who have been assigned/used one of those cards, but the police are also interviewing those players friends, associates, girl friends re any fraudulent use of those cards.
        All of this becomes very distracting to any player even tho you may not be involved, one has to deal with it as the police try to put the big picture all together – yes its very distracting and stressful – even tho you’re not involved.

  4. Lanknows
    Comments: 3724
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 01, 2017 at 2:34 PM

    It’s been a minute since I grumbled about Ty Isaacs so here we go. Dude isn’t going to get “crunch-time” carries unless he’s running significantly better than the top 2 backs in the lead-up to those situations — and maybe not even then given the trust issues.

    Meaningful carries? There’s a good chance he gets a shot. Crunch time? I very much doubt it.

    • Thunder
      Comments: 2479
      Joined: 7/13/2015
      Sep 01, 2017 at 2:41 PM

      In the games against Iowa, Indiana, and Wisconsin, he totaled 14 carries. Michigan was -1 against Iowa, +10 against Indiana, and +7 against Wisconsin. That’s good enough for me. Higdon had 7 carries in those games.

      Add in the OSU and FSU games (in which Isaac didn’t play), and they both had 14 carries during those contests. So you can say that Isaac won’t get carries, but there’s as much evidence for Isaac as there is for Higdon.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3724
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Sep 02, 2017 at 1:17 PM

        Isaac had 1 second quarter carry against Iowa. That is not ‘crunch time’

        Higdon was injured against Wisconsin. Isaac got 8 carries and a few of them were indeed in ‘crunch time’.

        So yes, I agree if Evans or Higdon are hurt then Issac will get crunch time carries.

        Otherwise, not.

      • Lanknows
        Comments: 3724
        Joined: 8/11/2015
        Sep 02, 2017 at 1:20 PM

        Yes Higdon doesn’t have a much better ‘crunch time’ resume (unless you count MSU – I don’t). But Higdon has finished ahead of Isaac on the depth chart the last 2 years and is reportedly ahead again this year. So – there is a clear pecking order.

        The question comes down to if the coaches trust Isaac enough to give him those carries. Last year, when he was the #3 back for most of the first half of the year — they did not. This year, he is the #3 back again, so I don’t expect anything to change, barring injury.

        Higdon has leap-frogged Isaac – which is why you’d expect him to get the ball when it matters most.

  5. Comments: 570
    Joined: 9/13/2015
    Sep 02, 2017 at 12:10 AM

    I think it depends on who is ‘hot’ running the ball. I believe in short yardage situations it will be between Higdon and Isaac. It doesn’t really matter because I am in the camp that believes UM needs 3 backs to run hard and effectively.

    Evans is not the type of back who can take a pounding. You want to win at PSU and beat OSU? Then have a fresh Evans. Let Higdon and Issac carry the ball 55-60% of the time against the lesser competition. I’ll make this initial game prediction.

    Evans (14 carries)
    Higdon (11 carries)
    Issac (5 carries)

    • Lanknows
      Comments: 3724
      Joined: 8/11/2015
      Sep 02, 2017 at 1:58 PM

      isaac hasn’t had much success in short yardage. neither has anyone else though (besides Hill). will be interesting to see if they change anything in those situations.

  6. Comments: 17
    Joined: 8/12/2015
    Sep 02, 2017 at 10:41 AM

    I’m hoping to see a coming out party for our teenaged freshman receivers (100 combined yards for those kids would be great). It’s a team game — the young receivers won’t shine unless the OL and Sp8 do their jobs.

    Also focusing on our very green DBs avoiding blown coverages and big mistakes. I think the Gators will have trouble sustaining drives against our Defense. Their path to victory might require testing the young DBs with gimmicks, wheel routes, jump balls, and whatever else might help set up quick strike passing plays against a very inexperienced secondary.

    I’m hoping that we can run to the right side. If the very green RG and RT can move a fine Gator defense — that will be a very good sign. If we can’t run right, there’s time to work on it, but it would be very hard to beat PSU, Wiscy and that other team on the schedule if the right side of the OL is subpar.

  7. Lanknows
    Comments: 3724
    Joined: 8/11/2015
    Sep 02, 2017 at 1:47 PM

    The one big thing I think optimistic M fans are overconfident about is the OL. Everybody gets that it’s uncertain and recognize the turnover. But most dismiss this pretty quickly when they consider what it means for the run game.

    I see mgoblog claiming that Onwenu is better than Kalis — this was so very far from the case last year. Especially galling is that we just went through this exercise when Omameh left to be replaced by Kalis. How’d that work out?

    I see Thunder claiming M run game will have an advantage over Florida – a top 15 run D last year.

    The only argument that makes any sense for why we’d get so much better is coaching. It could happen – Drevno’s 3rd year, Frey’s first – but it’s far from a lock.

    Anyway, I hope I am wrong of course, but recent history indicates not. I’m not optimistic, but I am hopeful — I do think Speight, Evans, and Hamilton can help the case by forcing defenses to focus on the pass game to take the pressure off (pass to run) and by making the most of uncertain blocking (playcalling decisions, elusiveness).

    • Comments: 809
      Joined: 1/19/2016
      Sep 02, 2017 at 3:27 PM

      Are fans optimistic about the OL? The only group with more skepticism is the Corners

      My faith in the OL is such that I’m confident speight doesn’t play or finish all 12 games

  8. Comments: 209
    Joined: 12/24/2016
    Sep 02, 2017 at 1:51 PM

    More on Florida to start the 2017 season; a Seminole perspective:


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