If there really was a Buffalo Wild Wings “button” to alter the course of football games, Florida would probably have been banging it shortly after halftime in hopes that there’s a “fast forward” option.
The Citrus Bowl was a match up of two teams on the up after bringing in new Jims to restore their historic (Michigan) and recent (Florida) winning ways. Both leave the overall scope of 2015-16 as happy campers, but Michigan probably has a bit wider a smile after a 41-7 thrashing of the Gators in Orlando.
Sports predictions are rarely about measured reason, so expect Michigan to have sky high expectations to deal with. Their Jim … native son Harbaugh … closed out the season in the type of way Michigan Men (and Women) far and wide came to hope for. Quarterback Jake Rudock, a late transfer from Iowa, registers in the Michigan record books as the second most productive passer (yards wise) in a season.
— The Student Section (@TheStudentSect) January 1, 2016
That shows the immediate impact Harbaugh and staff can have on the coach’s career position, one that gave him a fruitful NFL career. Michigan looked scary good after getting a month off, blemished on the scoreboard by a flaccid Florida offense only mostly with use of gadget plays, including the touchdown pass to quarterback Treon Harris, overmatched badly the entire day.
UM returns a bevy of talent. Talent was never the issue in Ann Arbor. Coaching was. Former Boston College defensive coordinator Don Brown will take over for departed D.J. Durkin, now the head coach at Maryland, and has to like what he sees, specifically anchored by what will be redshirt sophomore defensive back Jabrill Peppers.
As for the offense, wide receiver Jehu Chesson was a man possessed (118 yards), and he will return. Freshman wide receiver Grant Perry had the best game of his season and looks like he could be a breakout star. Michigan posted up 226 rushing yards against the SEC East champs.
Rudock is gone, but in his place will likely step John O’Korn, another from Harbaugh’s merry band of transfers. O’Korn threw for 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions at Houston in 2013. The challenge for the Wolverines will be not listening to the immense press clippings that will follow them going into next season.
While it’s card stock to say that “we won’t pay attention to what everyone else says,” it’s an impossible atmosphere to ignore, and you can tell when the mist of expectation is floating around campus. That all being said, it’s certainly better to have it than to not. Embrace expectation, because the alternative is people just flat out not thinking you’re very good, normally with reason.
It was a highly productive end to a highly productive year for the Wolves.
For a bit on Florida, the 2015 success was probably even more unexpected this immediately, but the future is slightly murkier. The Gators have a real issue at the most important position in the game, especially after Will Grier, who showed immense promise before being suspended earlier in the season for PED use, decided to transfer based on not getting a reported guarantee of the starting job back.
Jim McElwain doesn’t seem like the type to do entitlement, and it’s a bit of an arrogant assumption for Grier to make considering how the season ended. Treon Harris, try as though he might, simply isn’t very good at throwing the football. Unless he gets markedly better, Florida will have a very green player at that position.
None of it takes away from the success of this season. If you tell Gators’ fans back in August that they’d win 10 games and play in the SEC title game, they’d have taken it. Still, the off season enters with that one big question, though few others.
The Citrus Bowl was a tale of two positives running head-on into one another. Michigan continued on that ascent, content to take out the frustration of being flogged by rival Ohio State on the Gators. Positives in the end, but to start 2016, only a happy end for one, and soon, the weight of expectations that come with it.