After a break of more than a month since the Seminoles’ regular-season finale win over the Florida Gators, Florida State’s bowl matchup is nearly upon us. No. 11 FSU is set to face off with the No. 6 Michigan Wolverines on Friday night inside Hard Rock Stadium in an Orange Bowl matchup which is set to kick off this year’s New Years’ Six slate.
The Seminoles enter the game as underdogs, with Vegas currently giving Michigan a six-point margin. This is understandable as U of M was an OT win at Ohio State away from taking the Buckeyes’ spot in this year’s College Football Playoff. Do our staff members believe that Florida State has what it takes to pull the upset and snap the school’s two-year bowl-game skid? Let’s see what they have to say:
A disappointing season (relative to expectations) can be salvaged with a complete 60 minutes vs. a brand-name program. Michigan provides arguably the stiffest defensive challenge FSU has faced all year and the Wolverines will definitely sell out to prevent Dalvin Cook from beating them. The game will rest on the arm (and legs) of Deondre Francois. The improving 'Noles defense will continue to have success bottling up a traditional drop back passing attack and force a couple turnovers, Aguayo will bury his kicks, and Dalvin will seal the game late.
FSU 23, Michigan 17
I think this could be a defensive struggle type game. Both teams shutting down the other's quarterback. I think Michigan’s tight end, Jake Butt, could cause problems for FSU and that might be the difference maker. If Francois is on, FSU wins, but I'm not expecting it. Michigan 24, FSU 18
I think this will be a game that will feature more explosive plays rather than methodical drives as I expect both defensive lines to dominate their opposition. In Cook's presumed last game in Miami, I'm expecting him to go off, but only after Francois is able to hit some early throws as Michigan will almost assuredly dare Francois to beat them. JT Barrett wasn't able to throw well vs. Michigan & the Wolverines’ pressure looks but he was able to run effectively so I'm expecting Jimbo Fisher to take advantage of that. Michigan being a pro-style offense with a decidedly non-mobile qb gives me confidence in the defense's ability to match-up well with what the ‘Noles have already faced this season. FSU wins 20-17.
FSU 27-20. Bowl games are often difficult to predict, so I'm taking the streaking team. The 'Noles are riding momentum into the Orange Bowl, having won four straight games in dominating fashion en route to salvaging a decent season. During that streak, the Seminoles averaged 36.25 points per game, while the defense allowed just 4.0 yards per play, good for fourth-best nationally in November.
Speaking of 4, this is probably the last chance for Cook to win a bowl game in his career at FSU. Michigan’s defense is stout, but you can't discount Dalvin playing in front of his hometown crowd, where his record is unblemished as a Seminole. Don’t forget to add in the extra Heisman snub motivation for good measure.
Meanwhile, Michigan has lost two of its last three games, including an emotional overtime loss to rival Ohio State that knocked the Wolverines out of the playoff picture. Despite Michigan’s mature, senior-laden roster, that might lead me to question Michigan's desire to play in this game. The ‘Noles are 7-0 this season against offenses ranked outside the S&P top 25 (Michigan’s offense is No. 28), and UM QB Wilton Speight hasn’t played particularly well since injuring his left shoulder during Michigan’s loss to Iowa on November 12. Since that Iowa loss, Michigan is only averaging 20 points per game on offense. Will Speight’s shoulder be healthy enough to withstand four quarters of hits against FSU? Will he be rusty from the extended time off? Will he continue to struggle with turnovers? Michigan’s receivers and TE Jake Butt are certainly talented, and FSU’s secondary is banged up, but Michigan will still need their QB to be sharp to take advantage of those matchups. I’m not convinced he will be.
For what it matters, Florida State has never lost 3 consecutive bowl games in program history, and the 'Noles have won at least 10 games every season since 2011. An Orange Bowl win is needed to extend both streaks. I’m expecting a solid, defensive matchup against another blueblood program that FSU doesn’t get to face very often. It should be fun.
This is going to be a good game. I'm expecting an exciting back and forth game with FSU's offense and defense making a few more plays than Michigan's respective units.
I'm expecting Cook to end his career with ~125 yards rushing and ~60 receiving, and Francois will have a decent game, needing to remain turnover-free to keep the Seminoles in it. The defensive line will harass Speight all night. Hopefully, the young man will be able to finish the game healthy and not aggravate his recently healed shoulder from the pounding he will receive.
I think FSU will win the turnover battle and will have the game under control by the middle of the fourth quarter.
FSU 35 - The 4 A's 27
Cook caps off a record setting career with one last brilliant game in front of his family and friends--with most of his damage coming in the second half. He goes over 200 total yards and scores three TDs.
FSU 31, Michigan 23
I do not have much faith in Florida State’s capability to pull off the upset vs. Michigan. Deondre Francois still hasn’t wowed me, and he faces his toughest test yet against this Michigan defense. Each and every one of those freshman mistakes he has been making will be capitalized by that Wolverine defense and give the team from up north momentum throughout the game.
While Michigan racks up the turnovers, FSU’s defense, which has been exposed early in the season, will falter in my opinion with Ermon Lane out of the lineup (I never thought I’d be typing that six months ago). The veteran presences from both sides of the Michigan ball will play a huge factor.
Cook finishes his collegiate career getting put in check once again by UM defensive coordinator Don Brown, who also held the junior to 4.48 yards per carry over two games while at BC as defensive coordinator in 2014 and 2015. In the end, Michigan rolls to an easy victory.
Florida State 10
Like many of the guys above me, I think we are in for a low-scoring affair in Friday night’s matchup. Both teams aim to control the line of scrimmage and I expect both defenses, which are both top five in the FBS in sacks, to do just that.
Both offenses have key players who they will look to for big plays as slow, methodical drives will be hard to come by. Cook, in what could very well be his last collegiate game, has a good track record in Miami and is likely good for a few big runs. However, Michigan will counter with an established tight end in Butt, exposing a weak spot of the Florida State defense throughout the season.
In the end, I think FSU keeps it close late into the game, but is just marginally outplayed by the superior U of M team if, and it’s a fairly big if, the Wolverines are motivated to play after coming up just short of a playoff berth.
I’ve gone back and forth on this game. But ultimately, the big picture dictates my final pick, as I voiced on Ann Arbor sports radio earlier today. Miami has already won its bowl game, but it may still weigh in on the result of the Orange Bowl, even if the ‘Canes aren’t playing.
No, it’s not “all about the U,” as the Hurricanes’ season is over. But the locale will play a bigger part than usual in this enticing bowl matchup.
Following a regular season that many thought would see FSU included in the College Football Playoff, the ‘Noles find themselves in a glorified exhibition. However, it’s in south Florida, from whence many Florida State players were recruited to Tallahassee. Translation: this doesn’t really matter. But it still kind of does.
Michigan is hoping to carve out a recruiting footprint south of I-4, while FSU is defending its own. My first instinct here was 24-23, but given bowl-season tackling (or the lack thereof), I’m going to up that. Michigan 24, FSU 27.