We’re very fortunate to have the SB Nation network of team sites to work with during game weeks. Our Orange Bowl edition of the Opponent Q&A series features Anthony Broome, managing editor of Maize n Brew, SBN’s wonderfully named Michigan site. We discuss our feelings, Jake Butt, and what to expect from a nasty Wolverine defense facing Dalvin Cook and Co.
TN: Another great season in Ann Arbor saw the Wolverines fall just short of a playoff appearance. How are you feeling about this Orange Bowl as a post-season destination? Do you see the UM team being “up” for this match-up?
MnB: Michigan will be ready to play and send their senior class out on a high note. This is as talented group as they have had in a decade and I think they will want to put a stamp on their legacy. In terms of the Orange Bowl, it certainly is a disappointment considering what was in front of them. They had Iowa and Ohio State on the ropes and could not finish and that kept them out of the playoff. With that being said, Harbaugh always coaches to prepare for what's in front of his team, not what should have been or could be. They'll be ready.
TN: Wilton Speight battled an injury down the stretch in 2016. What’s the latest on his health, and what does he bring to the Michigan offense?
MnB: Speight battled a shoulder injury in the Ohio State game and played pretty darn well all things considered. With the month off from playing, I would expect him to be much healthier and be back to the form we saw from him all season long.
TN: An obvious point of concern for FSU fans is the match-up of Jake Butt against Florida State’s linebackers and safeties. How does U of M’s offense like to use the superstar tight end?
MnB: The weird thing about Jake Butt is that it feels like he had a quiet season. He is arguably the best tight end in college football, but has never really been a featured option due to the skill position guys Michigan has. Somehow, he is always open, so maybe Florida State will be one of the first teams this year to cover him.
TN: Don Brown’s defense has been nasty this season. What are this unit’s strengths and where, if at all, might they be vulnerable?
MnB: The strength is up front. The Wolverines are so deep on the defensive line and consistently rotate 7 or 8 guys in and out of the lineup and they have knocked quarterbacks out of a lot of games this season. Michigan's defense -- including Jabrill Peppers -- has struggled at times when teams decide they want to run right at them. Whoever wins the Dalvin Cook vs. Peppers battle is going to be a huge factor in who wins this game.
TN: How do you see Michigan attempting to contain Dalvin Cook?
MnB: Michigan will rely on Peppers to slow down the FSU running back. It will be a group effort, but he is going to be the spotlight player and like it was said before, he has not always succeeded when teams run the ball right at him. The defensive line getting into the backfield off the snap is going to be huge if they want to plug holes and places for him to go.
TN: Finally, let’s get a prediction. The Wolverines opened as a favorite of about a touchdown. How do you see this one unfolding?
MnB: I see there being some early rust between both teams, but I do think it will be closer than the spread indicates. I believe Michigan wins this one 28-24.
Big thanks to Anthony for his time! Be sure to head over to Maize n Brew for all things Michigan, but before you do that...we also had a chance to talk to Off Tackle Empire, the general SB Nation blog for all things Big 10 and helped them produce their Orange Bowl preview, so be sure to check that out, as well!