Wolverines vs. Seminoles
Date and Time: Friday, December 30, 2016, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
Orange Bowl Odds at BookMaker.eu: Michigan -7, O/U 52.5
Michigan vs. Florida State TV Coverage: ESPN
When Michigan Has the Ball…
Wilton Speight should be fully healthy by the time this one kicks off and that’s great news for Michigan. Speight was surprisingly effective when he needed to be for the Wolverines this season and his presence was missed when John O’Korn had to play in his stead against Indiana. Although he threw two interceptions against the Buckeyes in a loss, he showed a lot of character playing through the pain and almost led the Wolverines to a win in Columbus.
If you’re looking for someone to have a big game for Michigan, Butt is the answer. Tight end Jake Butt has been one of the nation’s best this season and although he doesn’t put up big numbers look for him to have a big game against Florida State. The linebacking corps is the weak link on the Seminoles defense and the unit doesn’t have a safety that can stop him with the announcement that Derwin James won’t be playing.
When Florida State Has the Ball…
Provided Dalvin Cook doesn’t follow in the footsteps of Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey, he will be the focal point of the offense for the Seminoles. Although the Wolverines have one of the best rush defenses in the country this season thanks to Don Brown’s revamped defense, they have yet to see a running back as explosive as Cook.
Unlike the typical mush rushers you see in the Big Ten, Cook has fantastic footwork and an electric first step that gets him to holes that other running backs can’t reach. Those attributes are going to come in handy against a Michigan defensive line that could give Florida State’s offensive line fits. This defense is so good that it is sort of a pick your own poison on whether or not you want to try to beat them on the ground or through the air. With a freshman quarterback that is still learning Jimbo Fisher’s complex offense and a lackluster group of wide receivers, Cook becomes all the more important.
The X Factor
Points are going to be hard to come by for the Seminoles and that makes the play of their defense, and in particular their defensive line, all the more important. Florida State led the nation in sacks this season, second place was Michigan interestingly enough, and DC Charles Kelly’s unit had a ton of success after he decided to bring more pressure following losses to Louisville and North Carolina.
DeMarcus Walker showed why he is one of the best pass rushers in the nation down the stretch, tallying two sacks in four of FSU’s final six games. However, the cornerstone for the revival of the defensive line was the emergence of Derrick Nnadi in the interior. As the season progressed, Nnadi’s play got better and better and he was consistently whipping blockers against both the run and the pass. That meant that Walker and Josh Sweat were facing single blockers on the edge and they made offensive tackles pay.
While good, Michigan’s offensive line isn’t as good as you might think. The unit doesn’t rank in the Top 20 in any of the advanced metrics on Football Outsiders. Running backs only averaged 5 or more yards per carry 38.7 percent of the time behind this line, a number that ranks them 80th in the nation. They are better in pass protection, but if they can’t run the ball against Florida State, the Noles could win a low-scoring affair.