Michigan faces FSU in the Orange Bowl. Here are some storylines and predictions for the Wolverines ahead of their matchup with the Seminoles.
There’s no doubt Michigan is still feeling the sting of being left out of the College Football Playoff. But the bottom line is that the Wolverines didn’t live up to their own expectations, and have thus been forced to settle for a trip to Miami.
The Orange Bowl might not seem like much to disappointed Michigan fans who hoped for a shot at a national title. But that would be a misguided thought, considering Jim Harbaugh has brought the Wolverines to a major bowl game just two years removed from a 5-7 campaign under former coach Brady Hoke.
The 9-3 Seminoles await next, and here are five storylines and predictions for Michigan heading into the Orange Bowl.
The Orange Bowl isn’t a consolation prize
And Michigan won’t be treating it as such. Yes, the Wolverines have a case that they are one of the best four teams in the nation. But losing to Iowa on a last-second field goal – a game they needed to win and should have won against an inferior opponent – and falling to Ohio State in double overtime rightfully kept them out of the CFP. There shouldn’t be any question of motivation for Harbaugh and these Wolverines, though. Their competitive drive will forge them ahead.
Michigan will overcome FSU’s “home-state advantage”
Playing in Florida State’s backyard certainly isn’t ideal, but we’re talking about a Michigan team that traveled into one of college football’s most hostile environments and was a fourth-down stop away from leaving Columbus with a victory. The Seminoles have already won a game at Hard Rock Stadium this season – a 20-19 victory over Miami on Oct. 8 – but that really doesn’t matter to Michigan. Harbaugh can go in there and steal a win, and possibly some top-level recruits in the process.
Team-first mindset for Wolverines’ future pros
Everyone has an opinion on LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffery skipping their teams’ bowl games to avoid injury ahead of the NFL draft. Even Nick Saban weighed in, blaming the creation of the College Football Playoff as the reason why future NFL players are considering skipping bowls. Whatever the reason may be, no Wolverines are going to be sitting out the Orange Bowl.
Jabril Peppers is going to be one of the first players selected in the draft, but the Heisman Trophy finalist will be in uniform despite rumors that his mother has been shopping around for an agent. Junior center Mason Cole will explore his NFL draft prospects in the near future, but he also said he won’t be anywhere else but on the field during the Orange Bowl. There’s also no reason to think Taco Charlton or Chris Wormely will sit out.
Jabrill Peppers will score a touchdown
Let’s refrain from predicting how it will happen, but it will happen. Whether it’s Harbaugh calling his name in the red zone for a run via the Wildcat, bringing an interception or fumble back to the house or returning a punt, Peppers will find himself in the end zone in what is likely to be the last collegiate game for the redshirt sophomore.
FSU won’t be a pushover, but Michigan wins
Don’t let the Seminoles’ three losses fool you. They’re on a quite a roll, winning four in a row since a three-point defeat to CFP semifinalist Clemson. FSU hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in any of its last three games and is going to be tough on Wilton Speight and De’Veon Smith. Oh, and that Dalvin Cook guy is pretty darned good.
Ultimately, the Wolverines will come out on top, finally avenging the 51-31 loss Florida State handed them in Ann Arbor back in 1991.