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Maize and Adieu: Michigan Missing Several Players Ahead of Peach Bowl Clash with Florida

Michigan

Bookend losses to Notre Dame and rival Ohio State muted what was a successful 10-2 season for Jim Harbaugh’s squad. However, backers of the Wolverines may have a different opinion as the Maize and Blue finished just 6-6 against the spread and were 0-3 ATS the final three weeks of the regular season. To make matters worse, Michigan will be missing several key role players this Saturday. We’ll chop up those details below.

Despite finishing third in the SEC East, Florida won its final three regular-season games to post a 9-3 record overall and 8-4 against the spread. The Gators have hit the OVER in three straight games and six of their past seven contests.

Due to the Wolverines’ roster shuffle, Michigan opened as a 7.5-point favorite before the line ping-ponged between -7, -7.5 and -7, where it stood at the time of writing. Florida’s moneyline opened at +195, but jumped to +240 before a slight dip back to +220. The point total opened at 46.5 before a significant swell to 51.

The Wolverines are 1-4 straight up and 2-3 against the spread in their last five bowl games. Florida is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 bowls.

SHARK BITES
  • Michigan is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games after consecutive ATS losses.
  • The total has gone OVER in six of Florida’s last seven games (avg. combined score: 58.86).
  • Florida is 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games as underdog.

Florida vs Michigan Peach Bowl Game Center

WHAT WE KNOW, LEARNED & MATCHUPS TO CONSIDER

Michigan – Senior running back Karan Higdon has elected to sit out the Peach Bowl in preparation for the NFL draft. So, the Wolverines will be without the team leader in rush attempts (224), rush yards (1,178) and rushing touchdowns (10). Without Higdon, Michigan loses 45.8 percent of its rush production and 13.5 percent of its scoring production this season.

The next man up is junior tailback Chris Evans. He finished the season with 74 carries for 403 yards and four scores. For those concerned about experience, he finished the 2017 season with 135 carries for 685 yards when he and Higdon partook in a time-share.

Quarterback Shea Patterson might be asked to reinvent Michigan’s 82nd-ranked pass offense that averaged a paltry 213 yards per game. He’ll have to do it against Florida’s 10th-ranked pass defense, which allowed only 15 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 53.4 percent of their passes against the Gators, which ranked in the top 13 nationally.

On defense, two of Michigan’s top pass rushers are also out. Linebacker Devin Bush will miss the Peach Bowl with a hip injury and forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Bush finished with 67 tackles and five sacks. Defensive end Rashan Gary will also sit out to prepare for the draft. The former No. 1 recruit in the country finished the season with 3.5 sacks in nine games.

Although it’s only two defensive players, Michigan’s nationally recognized defense earns a significant downgrade without Bush and Gary active.

Florida – Michigan’s depleted front seven is welcomed news as Florida’s running back committee of Lamical Perine and Jordan Scarlett will eat quite well. The duo combined for 250 carries, 1,467 yards and 10 touchdowns with both averaging 5.9 yards per carry. They paced the nation’s 27th-ranked rushing offense.

Because the rush defense allowed 170 yards per game – 73rd nationally – Florida needs to be careful with how it approaches Evans.

Opposing offenses reached the Gators red zone only 30 times in 12 games – fifth-fewest in the FBS.

ATLANTA, GA FORECAST AND KICKERS

Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Let’s take a cold-weather team, match them up against a warm-weather team and throw them inside a climate-controled stadium. Advantage: warm-weather team.

Florida freshman kicker Evan McPherson is 15 of 17 on field goals and 45-for-45 on extra points. Michigan’s kicker game was a mess until it switched to freshman Jake Moody. He’s 8-for-8 on field goals and 4-for-4 on extra points in two games.

MY LEAN

Let’s be honest, Harbaugh’s getting a raw deal here. The loss of three of his best players ahead of a bowl matchup does him no favors. It’s worth noting that the spread dipped only a half-point after the Higdon news last Thursday from Michigan -7.5 to -7. The Wolverines could quite possibly win this outright, but to rely on the team’s second-string running back and a 68th-ranked FBS quarterback to carry the load on offense with a depleted defense and cover -7? That’s too rich.

I’ll take the Gators to cover +7.

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