Here's an early look at the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl matchup between Florida and Michigan:
Storyline to watch: This is the matchup of two teams that are similar in a few aspects. For one, both are led by head coaches who were snubbed as finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award. How Florida’s Jim McElwain and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh were left off is baffling. Each coach turned his respective program around in his first year. McElwain won the SEC East and 10 games, while Harbaugh won nine. This is just the beginning for both coaches.
Key question for Florida: Will the Gators have any sort of pulse on offense? Florida finished the season averaging a paltry 231.3 yards in its final three games. During that span, the Gators scored just 37 total points. Now, Florida must face a Michigan defense that’s allowing just 281.3 yards and 17.2 points per game. Michigan allowed a touchdown or fewer in seven games, including having three-straight shutouts. As good as Florida’s defense has been, this team won’t win if the offense doesn’t find some way to evolve in the next few weeks.
Big man on campus: The Gators will need a big day from defensive lineman Jonathan Bullard. He was arguably the Gators' best defender all season. He registered 17.5 tackles for loss as a guy who played most of his season inside. Florida needs to force turnovers and work with a short field. That starts with play up front with this very talented defensive line, and Bullard is the heart and soul of this unit. Michigan has allowed just 18 sacks on the season, but Bullard just has to make quarterback Jake Rudock's day miserable by applying pressure and forcing him to make mistakes.
Florida will win if: The Gators will win if quarterback Treon Harris finds a way to throw the ball consistently down the field and make plays with his legs. Defenses know they can stack the box and take away the run, putting everything on Harris to be successful. But when Harris rolls out of the pocket and can see the field, he can be a challenge for defenses. As for Florida’s defense, the Gators have forced 25 turnovers and have collected 40 sacks. Rudock has thrown nine interceptions. Making him uncomfortable is key for Florida’s defense.