Michigan and FSU both entered the season with playoff aspirations. Who will come out victorious?
Greetings, SQ readers! Tonight, two teams who entered the season with playoff aspirations will face off against each other in what should be a classic. Michigan enters the game with one of the most dominant defenses in the country while Florida State comes in with one of the most lethal running backs in Dalvin Cook. Who will prevail in the end?
Storylines Heading Into the Game
The Harbaugh Effect: Last year, Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh and it was a home run. Since becoming the Wolverines head coach, Harbaugh has compiled an impressive 20-5 record in two seasons. He’s also proven to be an excellent recruiter, grabbing big fish Rashan Gary in 2016 and landing top wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones for 2017. Right now, Harbaugh’s 2017 recruiting class is ranked fourth in the country per 247 Sports. With Harbaugh at the helm, the Wolverines will be a championship caliber team for years to come.
Dalvin Cook Rushes His Way Into Greatness: Junior running back Dalvin Cook got off to a slow start this year, not rushing for 100 yards in his first three games. However, since then, he has been on fire, averaging 154.7 rushing yards per game. Against bowl teams, Cook has averaged 135.7 rushing yards per game. He is Florida State’s all-time leading rusher with 4,319 yards, surpassing Warrick Dunn.
Jimbo Isn’t Going Anywhere: Jimbo Fisher’s name was affiliated with LSU all season. The FSU coach repeatedly claimed that he was not going anywhere and he was right. He was awarded a two-year contract extension. He previously signed an eight-year contract extension in 2014. His annual compensation will increase from $5.25 million to $5.55 million starting in 2017.
This is great news for FSU fans. Since becoming the Seminoles’ head coach, Fisher has compiled a win-loss record of 77-17 including a national championship win in January 2014. He is also on pace to sign his fourth straight top-five recruiting class.
135.9: Michigan’s pass defense has been brilliant, giving up 135.9 passing yards per game, the lowest mark in Division 1. They’ve given up 200+ yards passing just twice and have not surrendered 300+ yards passing all season. In addition, the Wolverines have given up 5.4 yards per pass attempt (tied for first), allowed quarterbacks to complete 44.5% of passes (first), allowed nine passing touchdowns (tied for second) and allowed an opposing quarterback rating of 91.9 (second). With key players such as Jabrill Peppers and Jourdan Lewis, it’s no wonder Michigan’s pass defense has been excellent.
47: FSU had a rough year defensively, giving up 24.4 points per game which was 43rd in the country. However, the defense was very good at getting to quarterbacks with 47 sacks, which was tied for the most in the country. Senior defensive end DeMarcus Walker led the charge with 15sacks. FSU’s defense will be tested against an excellent Michigan offensive line that has given up only 18 sacks for the season.
5: That’s the number of total touchdowns Michigan playmaker Jabrill Peppers has scored for the Wolverines. Michigan is one of the best teams in the country in large part thanks to Peppers. The junior is one of the most versatile athletes in the country. In addition to five touchdowns, he has 72 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception and 751 all-purpose yards.
Florida State: Travis Rudolph, WR – Rudolph has been FSU quarterback Deondre Francois’ favorite receiver in 2016. The junior leads his team with 807 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He’s been a red-zone threat in FSU’s last four games, scoring a touchdown in each one. FSU will need to figure out how to beat Michigan’s uber-good secondary and Rudolph is the key.
Michigan: De’Veon Smith, RB – Smith leads Michigan runners with 810 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns. He’s rushed for 100+ yards three times and could possibly make that a fourth time against an FSU team that’s been decent but not great against the run. The Wolverines have several solid players on offense but Smith is arguably their best one. His running game could prove to be vital for his team.
Why Michigan Wins
The Wolverines have looked absolutely dominant this season, beating their opponents by an average margin of 28.5 points. They have been a machine on the defensive side of the ball, giving up 253 yards per game and 12.5 points per game, both of which are ranked second in the country. Offensively, they’ve scored 41 points per game. Michigan is one of the most balanced teams in the country and could prove to be too much for FSU.
Why Florida State Wins
It can be argued that FSU has better players on offense than Michigan does especially at the running back position. As implied before, Dalvin Cook has been a monster. The junior is good enough to carry his entire offense to victory with the motor he has. FSU has also been red-hot lately. After getting off to a somewhat slow 5-3 start, the Seminoles won their last four, beating their opponents by an average margin of 22.8 points. Michigan, on the other hand, imploded down the stretch after a 9-0 start, losing two of its last three games.
These are two of the most talented teams in the country going at it. Michigan has been in the playoff talks all season while FSU has showed us lately why they were considered a playoff team entering the season. Jimbo Fisher is 4-2 in Bowl games, although it should be noted that those two losses occurred in the last two seasons. Although Michigan has lost two of their last three games, their overall body of work has been incredible and it cannot be ignored. I think this game will be a close battle but in the end, Michigan prevails.
Final Score: Michigan 24, FSU 21
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