Florida State Seminoles (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs. Michigan Wolverines (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)
Capital One Orange Bowl
Date/Time: Friday, December 30, 2016 at 8PM EST
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami, Florida
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FSU +7/MICH -7
Over/Under Total: Off
The Florida State Seminoles meet the Michigan Wolverines at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in the Capital One Orange Bowl. Both teams had success this season, while ultimately falling short of their lofty goals. That’s especially true for a Wolverines team that was so close to doing enough to get into the College Football Playoff, with two narrow and painful losses at the end of the season spoiling their plans. Their last game was a really painful one, as Ohio State came back on them and won in overtime. Florida State, meanwhile, had to finish the season strongly with 4 straight wins to get to 9-3 and land in this spot. The way things turned out was probably easier for the ‘Noles to swallow than it was for the Wolverines.
For potential Michigan backers, the concerns are evident, with the way they ended the season combined with any letdown sentiment that might be at play. A lot of teams feel great about being in the Orange Bowl, but not so much for a team that seemed CFP-bound for nearly the entire season. They weren’t able to maintain the fever-pitch they established earlier in the season, as their play deteriorated slightly over the late-stage of the season. And to lose to Iowa and Ohio State by a combined four points and have that be what prevents you from glory is a tough pill to swallow. They land in this Orange Bowl spot with somewhat of a thud.
In any walk of life, it can be hard to rise to the occasion when you expected more. Michigan’s coaches and players will say all the right things about how this game means a lot to them and so on. And they might even believe it to an extent. But this is the kind of thing that lies in your bones, existing on a subconscious level. From a match-up viewpoint, there are a lot of things to like about this matchup for the Wolverines, but will it be presented on December 30 in an urgent or letdown performance, or somewhere in the middle?
The Michigan defense looks to present a lot of issues for FSU. The Wolverines registered 44 sacks on the season under first year defensive coordinator Don Brown, a pass-rushing maven. Leading in that category was DE Taco Charlton, along with Chris Wormley and Chase Winovich. One of the best in the country in Jabrill Peppers is back there, with a slew of defensive talent that led to the Wolverines being the 2nd-ranked defense in the whole nation. They were the number-one ranked passing defense in the land, allowing an average of just 12.5 points per game. The 30 points the Buckeyes put up against them in their last game was the most of any team this season. Nine times this season, teams have scored 14 or fewer points against Big Blue.
Wilton Speight was back against Ohio State, with his two picks being a big part of the loss. Still, he was against a really tough “D” in this game, with Ohio State’s defensive playmaking ability hurting the Wolverines in that game. This offensive unit was not thriving late-season when they needed to—first with their shabby showing against Iowa and then in failing to deliver late against Ohio State. Still, with some time off, maybe fresher legs can help. They can run the heck out the ball, led by a quartet of good backs with diverse skills in De’Veon Smith, Chris Evans, Ty Isaac, and Karan Higdon. Aerially, Speight relies on Amara Darboh, Jake Butt, and Jehu Chesson. And Peppers has been big with three touchdowns on offense and a slew of special teams contributions.
Florida State really wasn’t that far off. Their earlier-season loss to Louisville, 63-20, was their only embarrassment of the season, as their losses to North Carolina and Clemson were by a combined five points. Freshman Deondre Francois was able to put up 3128 yards passing, while running in 4 TDs, despite a lack of cooperation at times up-front. He gets a big assist from one of the more-dangerous backs in the country in Dalvin Cook, who ran for 1620 yards and had 19 touchdowns, along with 426 yards through the air. With 378 yards in his last two games, Cook was cooking to end the season. We’ll see if he can make it translate against a tough Michigan defense. And that goes for the aerial attack, a good one, led by Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield, Auden Tate, and other key role-players. It’s a balanced offense that has averaged over 35 points a game.
Overall, the Seminoles’ defense hasn’t been all that bad—ranked in the top 30 overall. They’ve been dicey against the pass, at times, while more-robust against the run. They’ve done well against struggling offenses, while the better offenses they played were able to exploit this group. Simple enough, but where does Michigan stand in that equation? Still, even as they’ve been porous on occasion this season, the ‘Noles rank as one of the better playmaking defenses in the country, with the national lead in sacks with 47 with 22 turnovers. DE DeMarcus Walker is tied atop the FBS with 15 sacks, with help on the other end with Brian Burns, along with Josh Sweat and Derick Nnadi. While having the sack-leader, FSU also has the nation’s interception leader in Tavarus McFadden who has 8 picks. So while the attention is on the Michigan defense, let’s not forget how opportunistic this FSU defense can be.
The one thing that raises red flags for the Florida State cause is the fact that the offensive line has been pushed around at times and that doesn’t bode well for a matchup with the vicious Wolverines defense. Then again, if Speight continues to be errant with his throws, the FSU defense is more than capable of exploiting it. While the site of the game and what happened preceding it favors FSU, I’m going for the superior O-line to make a big impact on this game, with Michigan getting the win and cover.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Michigan Wolverines minus 7 points.
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